O'Donnell Says Publisher Deceived Her

From Associated Press

Rosie O'Donnell said Friday that her publisher had deceived her about how Rosie magazine would be run and that she was the victim of a "coup d'etat."

O'Donnell, finishing her testimony in a breach-of-contract case in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, said she had entered the joint venture with Gruner & Jahr USA believing she controlled the editorial content and staff of the magazine.

By the end of the summer of 2002, she said, she believed that was no longer true. The last issue of Rosie was December 2002.

The entertainer said problems began July 10, 2002, when editor in chief Susan Toepfer chose a cover photo featuring the women of "The Sopranos" and fought O'Donnell over whether to use it.

O'Donnell said the incident and others convinced her that Daniel Brewster, the Gruner & Jahr chief executive who hired Toepfer, had violated the company's contract with O'Donnell.

"I felt there was a coup d'etat," she testified. "Susan Toepfer was trying to take over my magazine. Having a magazine with my name on it go out to the public without my control was never an option for me."

O'Donnell's brother, Ed O'Donnell, testified that when he was asked to study Rosie's numbers to see what could be done about circulation problems and difficulties attracting advertising, an executive told him the numbers he was using were fake.

Ed O'Donnell, a senior vice president of marketing at NBC, said Cindy Spengler, the magazine's marketing executive, had told him its sales and circulation figures had been inflated.

O'Donnell had a clause in her contract with Gruner & Jahr that allowed her to cancel the agreement if the magazine's sales dropped below a certain level. Her lawyers alleged that Gruner & Jahr executives had lied about the numbers so they could continue to publish Rosie.

Gruner & Jahr lawyers said the magazine lost about $19 million during its 18-month existence. O'Donnell had put up $6 million.

The publishers sued O'Donnell for $100 million, alleging breach of contract. She countersued for $125 million.

Justice Ira Gammerman is hearing the case without a jury. The trial is expected to conclude Monday.

O'Donnell said after Friday's court session, "I will not appeal the verdict, no matter what it is. The judge is a very wise man, and I will abide by whatever he says."

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