Academy pressure halts Oscar ticket auctioneer


Saturday, March 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Bowing to legal pressure from the Motion Picture Academy, an Internet auctioneer withdrew an offer to gain two people entry to this month's Oscar ceremony.

Nearly 50 potential buyers bid on the package, and the price had reached $11,400 by the time the eBay sale was halted Friday, said Lucien Lallouz, owner of Taketoauction.com.

High bidders were promised access to the Oscars as guests of legitimate ticketholders.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences filed suit Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court to force Florida-based Taketoauction.com to remove the offer.

``The Academy is serious about the security of our audience,'' said Academy executive director Bruce Davis. ``It may be one of the most-watched television events in the world, but it is nevertheless a private party.''

The lawsuit became moot when Lallouz agreed to halt the sale.

``The Academy lawyer very nicely and very convincingly made us aware that they have serious security problems and one of our high bidders could be a stalker trying to gain access to celebrities,'' Lallouz said.

This week, the FBI confirmed it is investigating a plot to kidnap ``Gladiator'' star Russell Crowe, who is nominated for best actor.

In January, agents donned tuxedos to escort Crowe to the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said Tuesday.

Davis characterized Lallouz's Internet auction as ``an electronic form of ticket scalping.''

But Lallouz said he never actually possessed tickets to the March 25 event. Instead, he said he was acting as middleman for Oscar ticketholders he reached through a vendor who frequently provides him with celebrity autographs. Lallouz said he didn't know the ticketholders' names.

The package also included a Rodeo Drive shopping spree, airfare, hotel fees and limousine rental.

The Academy plans to continue investigating the matter, Davis said.

``We frankly doubt that any legitimate ticketholder is involved in the auction in question,'' he said. ``A member who was involved in such a scheme would face expulsion from the organization.''

Taketoauction.com is a membership-based community where members sell the site's items at online auction sites and earn money.