The judge in the contract dispute between comedian Rosie O'Donnell and her ex-publisher over the folding of Rosie magazine said on Thursday neither side was entitled to damages and that each should pay their own legal fees. Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing had sued the former TV talk show host for $100 million, saying she breached her contract by walking away in September 2002 over editorial differences. O'Donnell countersued for $125 million, saying the publisher had taken away her editorial control. In November, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman said at the end of a two-week trial that the publisher's suit was ill-conceived and that it was never certain that Rosie would make any money. Gammerman said he would rule on damages and liability later but cautioned he was unlikely to award substantial damages.
On Thursday Gammerman said, "both sides breached the agreement between the parties and neither was entitled to damages or attorneys' fees," according to a statement released by the publisher. "We respectfully disagree with this decision," Gruner + Jahr said, adding that the firm would explore its legal options. Publicist Cindi Berger said O'Donnell was pleased the judge ruled that the publisher had tried to wrestle editorial control from the comedian and was unconcerned about having to pay her hefty legal fees--believed to be about $8 million. "She feels vindicated," Berger said. "She feels this was money well spent. When you are sued for $100 million and do not have to pay anything, clearly that is a win."
Rosie, a makeover of the women's magazine McCall's, was launched in 2001 to great initial success, but sales faded. The celebrity trial attracted heavy media attention as the publisher branded O'Donnell an "uber-bitch" who alienated editorial staff, and the entertainer accused the publisher of staging a "coup d'etat" by taking away her editorial control.