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Buss Sued by Advertising Firm for $72 Million

Times Staff Writer

An Inglewood advertising firm has filed a $72 million suit against Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers and the Forum, claiming breach of contract, conversion of funds, deceit, fraud and defamation.

In the suit, filed March 10 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, H&H; Sports, Inc., charges that Buss and California Sports, Buss’ corporation, violated verbal and written contracts and used money due the advertising firm without its knowledge.

Neither James Hunkins nor Steven Hohensee, owners of H&H; Sports, the firm that sells television and newspaper advertising as well as corporate sign space inside the Forum, could be reached Monday.

George Schulman, an attorney representing H&H; Sports, Inc., said that the firm “made a great deal of money for Buss, and he did not hold up his end, even though he kept promising to do so.”

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Schulman said Buss has until April 27 to answer the complaint.

Bob Steiner, a spokesman for California Sports, said Buss will not comment while the matter is in the courts.

In the 12 complaints listed in the suit, H&H; Sports is seeking in excess of $72 million, plus punitive damages. The suit also asks for an accounting from Buss’ books to determine the actual sum owed H&H; Sports.

“The acts of Buss were malicious and oppressive and were carried out because of Buss’ feelings of hatred or ill-will toward H&H; Sports, and because of Buss’ desire to terminate the contract and misappropriate H&H; Sports’ established customers and business,” the suit says.

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Among the allegations:

--That Buss, when starting the Prime Ticket cable network in 1984, promised to sell H&H; Sports one-third of the network for $3.2 million if it would sell advertising at a lower commission and make Prime Ticket financially viable. “Buss made the promises fraudulently with the intent to deceive and mislead H&H; Sports and at no time did Buss ever intend to comply with these promises,” the suit contends.

--That Buss, in 1986, failed to follow through on the terms of a $200,000 loan he received from H&H; Sports and converted the money due the advertising firm even before asking for the loan.

The suit contends that Buss promised to extend H&H; Sports’ contract with Prime Ticket through 1994 and provide the firm a note for the $200,000 at an interest rate of 2% above the prime lending rate, payable in one year.

--After Buss sold controlling interest in Prime Ticket in 1988, Prime Ticket terminated its contract with firm. The suit says that Buss contacted H&H; Sports’ clients and informed them that the H&H; Sports had overcharged the clients. The suit claims that Buss set and approved all prices.

--Great Western Bank was a client of H&H; Sports when Buss began negotiations to change the Forum’s name to the Great Western Forum.

In order to avoid paying H&H; Sports commissions entitled to it when the agreement with Great Western Bank was made, Buss allegedly delayed agreeing to terms with the bank until last November after terminating the firm’s exclusive representation of Buss.


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