Dodging one bullet
From the Palm Beach Post-
Although a jury found that Richard Williams did in fact breach a contract he signed promising his famous daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, would participate in a tennis match, they did not order him to pay the would-be promoters a dime.
Richard Williams was not in the courtroom when the jury returned with its decision. Venus and Serena Williams, however, were visibly elated, hugging each other and an older sister, Isha Williams, who came in from out of town for the final days of the multi-million dollar breach of contract trial.
The jury's decision brings an end to the nearly five-week trial, punctuated by such acrimony and histrionics that several times, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Winikoff has had to chastise the litigants and their attorneys.
Attorney F. Malcolm Cunningham Jr., who represented the Williams sisters, raised his hands over his head and yelled, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" in a small office inside the courthouse where he met privately with the family after the verdict.
At issue was a contract that Richard Williams signed promising his daughters would participate in a match that was to pit Venus and Serena Williams against two unnamed retired male tennis stars, possibly John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
The family had insisted the document was meaningless because Richard Williams had no authority to commit Venus and Serena Williams to anything, much less participate in a match that the promoters claimed would net $45 million.
However, attorneys representing shunned promoters Carol Clarke and Keith Rhodes, who say they stood to make as much as $9 million, produced several documents to dispute the family's claims.
Throughout the trial, the Williams sisters insisted they sign their own contracts. But on Tuesday, spurned business adviser Leland Hardy took the stand armed with documents that punched holes in their claims that Richard Williams didn't speak for them. Hardy offered four documents that Richard Williams apparently signed on his daughters' behalf. He also offered a letter in which Richard Williams outlined the correct way to do business with the family.
The jury found the contract was indeed valid, but awarded no damages to Clarke and Rhodes.
Much ado about nothing in the end. My own take is that the Williams are quite fortunate not to be paying these promoters damages. Despite their denials, the tax returns of the sisters listing their father as a manager seemed pretty damning.
I've prepared other people's tax returns for nearly 20 years. In that time I've always told clients to read the return I prepared for them and ask any questions they may have. Ignorance is not a defense in either a court of law or a tax audit.
The Williams have won one battle. They may face difficulties with the IRS still.
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