A Broadway scandal comes to a close as the jury has reached a verdict in the case between producers of the ill-fated Broadway musical that never was Rebecca and its press agent Marc Thibodeau.
Playbill has confirmed with lawyer Andrew Miltenberg that Thibodeau, who leads the New York-based Publicity Office, was found not liable on the count of defamation, and will pay a total of $90,000 in damages: $5,000 for breach of contract and $85,000 for tortious interference. Thibodeau was initially sued by Rebecca producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza for over $10 million on these charges.
Ronald G. Russo, the attorney for Sprecher and Forlenza, issued the following statement in response to the May 10 verdict:
“Earlier today, a Manhattan Jury awarded monetary damages against Marc Thibodeau on two of three causes of action that the producers of Rebecca, the Musical brought against him following the delay of the play. The producers are gratified that the jury found Thibodeau liable for damages both for having breached his employment contract to act as the publicist for Rebecca, as well as for having tortuously interfered with the producers’ business relationship with Mr. Lawrence Runsdorf, who had invested in the play.
“Although the producers were disappointed by the ‘damage award,’ a 6-member Jury made clear today that Mr. Thibodeau was not a ‘whistleblower,’ as he has contended, and found that his having sent four emails under false names was wrongful and assessed monetary damages against him for doing so.”
The trial began with opening statements April 24 in the court of Justice Jeffrey K. Oing. Reports indicate the deliberations lasted just under three hours.
The musical, based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, announced a Broadway production in 2008. Following a series of delays, the producers announced in January 2012—two weeks prior to the start of rehearsals—that capitalization was still incomplete, and the musical would be delayed until that fall. A day before rehearsals were to begin in September, the production was halted indefinitely.
Thibodeau was sued by the show's producers after he had sent emails under a pseudonym to a potential investor, pointing the anonymous person toward published reports of fraud involving other investors. These emails led to the investor to back out.
The trial was just a part of the musical’s winding path-to-nowhere—a path that’s included numerous delays, cast members dropping out, and the arrest of Mark Hotton, who was convicted of fraud after fabricating an investor by the name Paul Abrams. Producers had delayed the production in 2012, citing the death of phantom investor. Hotton was sentenced to three years in federal prison in October 2014.
Though Sprecher and Florenza had announced their intention to bring the musical to Broadway eventually, it was revealed during the trial that the two had lost the rights to the musical and will not be involved in any subsequent production.