12 Minority Firms Seeking $17 Million : Arbitration Talks Due in LAOOC Suit

Times Staff Writer

Twelve minority-owned companies that have claimed that the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee failed to abide by agreements giving them exclusive rights to market various souvenirs during the 1984 Olympic Games will be asking for a total of $17 million to $20 million in damages at arbitration hearings that begin Monday, spokesmen for the licensees said Wednesday.

At a press conference outside the Coliseum, the black, Latino and Asian businessmen also accused lawyers for the committee of seeking to delay and further complicate the proceedings scheduled under the auspices of the American Arbitration Assn. They charged that the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee’s aim is to increase the legal expenses to such a degree that they would be forced to give up their case.

“But we intend to continue even if we have to represent ourselves,” said Cal E. Burton, president of one of the firms, Avandi II Productions, the licensee for calendars.

The binding arbitration was ordered by Los Angeles Superior Court judges after six of the licensees filed a $44-million suit for actual and punitive damages against the LAOOC last July 17, just 11 days before the Games began.

Committee spokeswoman Amy Quinn said: “We are aware of the concerns of some of our licensee partners. However, since arbitration proceedings in this matter are scheduled to begin next week, it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter in detail.”


The Olympic committee has reported that it will have a surplus from the Games of as much as $250 million. Any arbitration award would come out of that.

A representative of Mayor Tom Bradley who attended the news conference as an observer--Wilfred Marshall, director of Bradley’s Office of Small Business Assistance--said Bradley is presently supporting neither side in the dispute.

Papers released this week by Frank Moreno, president of another of the licensees, Awards Media Inc., indicated, and Marshall confirmed, that the mayor had convened a meeting between Olympic officials and licensees at City Hall last July 2 to air the licensees’ complaints that the LAOOC was arbitrarily keeping them from marketing their products at many Olympic sites.

However, when the LAOOC officials refused to alter their stand against letting the licensees in, the papers indicate that Bradley did not press them to do so.

Burton said that, of a total of 23 minority-owned firms that the mayor’s office had assisted to become Olympic licensees in the first place, at least 14 are “in a distress situation” and some face bankruptcy. He accused the LAOOC of failing to observe oral or written agreements that it would see that its big sponsors bought their Olympic souvenirs only from the licensees, that it would grant the licensees space to market their products to the general public at Olympic venues and that it would allow the licensees to sell to other distributors.