- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge said yesterday that neither Rosie O’Donnell nor the publisher of her former magazine deserved damages in their dispute over its demise.

Minutes after both sides rested in the case, state Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman issued his surprising comments concluding the two-week trial.

“It seems to me … we’re just dealing with bragging rights here, who wins and who loses,” said Justice Gammerman, who heard the case without a jury.

The judge’s remarks effectively left neither side as the victor in a trial in which Miss O’Donnell’s image as the “Queen of Nice” took hits and the publisher was accused of manipulating the magazine’s financial figures. The judge did leave open the possibility that Miss O’Donnell could ask for publisher Gruner+Jahr USA to cover her legal fees.

Justice Gammerman said that no evidence or testimony during the contentious trial indicated that either side had caused the other to suffer damages.

Both parties invested money, the magazine lost money, and then it folded, he said.

“There’s no evidence that the magazine would have made any money at all,” he said.

Justice Gammerman’s comments from the bench were not legally binding, although he offered no indication to either side that he would reverse his opinion.

“I have no vengeance toward the company. … I’m simply happy about the fact that it is finally over,” Miss O’Donnell said afterward. She thanked the judge and vowed never to discuss the company again.

The comedian and former talk-show host quit Rosie magazine in mid-September 2002, and the magazine, which began publishing in April 2001, folded with the December 2002 issue.

The publishers sued Miss O’Donnell for $100 million, claiming breach of contract for walking away. She countersued for $125 million, saying G+J broke its contract with her by cutting her out of key editorial decisions and manipulated the magazine’s financial figures.

Among the bitter testimony in the case was that of Cindy Spengler, a cancer survivor on the Rosie staff, who said Miss O’Donnell suggested she was lying about goings-on at her magazine and told her that liars get cancer. Outside court, Miss O’Donnell said she had called Miss Spengler the next morning and apologized for the cancer comment.

Also on the stand, the chief financial officer of G+J USA acknowledged that he recommended manipulating the magazine’s financial performance in order to keep Miss O’Donnell on board.

In her own testimony, Miss O’Donnell said she was open to launching a magazine with her name on it because she had been impressed by the success of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, O, and was interested in a similar translation of her successful television show into print.

Miss O’Donnell said one of her conditions was that she have creative control of the magazine. She said the company agreed, but then disagreements arose over magazine content.

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