Federal court orders 'Frasier' star to pay more than $2 million in commissions


Tuesday, April 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Kelsey Grammer and his production company, Grammnet Inc., must pay more than $2 million in unpaid commissions to a former talent agency, a federal appeals court ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a lower court's ruling ordering the star of NBC's ``Frasier'' to settle debts with The Artists Agency, a Los Angeles-based talent company which represented him during the 1980s and 1990s.

``Although I am disappointed with the result, we will always fight for what we feel is right,'' Grammer said Monday through a spokesman. He's considering whether to appeal.

The case developed from debate over when the agency's contract ended with Grammer, a three-time Emmy winner and one of television's highest paid stars.

Grammer renegotiated his contract with Artists in 1995, noting the agency failed to secure him any motion picture projects. His two most significant projects, ``Frasier'' and NBC's ``Cheers,'' also were not obtained through the agency.

The new agreement extended Grammer's television and commercial obligations with the agency by two years, but allowed him to arrange his own movie deals.

A year later, the 47-year-old actor ended his relationship with Artists, and stopped paying commissions in August 1998. He told the Screen Actors Guild the 1995 contract was void because it violated an industry collective bargaining agreement.

A SAG arbitration panel agreed that the contract varied from bargaining rules, but determined it was valid, saying Grammer's attorney had waived objections by accepting the contract for her client.

A U.S. District Court judge agreed, prompting Grammer's appeal. On Monday, the appeals court upheld that agreement.

Marcia Harris, an attorney representing Artists, said it's uncommon for actors to refuse to accept arbitration verdicts from SAG.

``I think in every instance there is ample law to support upholding an arbitration law like this, that is reasonably based upon the agreement they were interpreting,'' Harris said.

Grammer's attorney, Marty Singer, said his client was trying to get the union to abide by its rules, not trying to get out of a contract on a technicality.

Singer said in a statement that ``the court's decision unfortunately allows the talent agency to collect commissions under a contract that doesn't follow the union's own rules.''