Rosie O'Donnell, publisher in court battle over magazine

Friday, October 31, 2003

— Lawyers for Rosie O'Donnell and the publisher of her now-defunct magazine, Rosie, squared off Thursday in court, each charging the other with destroying the publication by seeking complete control.

"Ms. O'Donnell walked away from the magazine, causing it to shut down in its second year of publication and causing hundreds of people to lose jobs and Gruner + Jahr to lose millions of dollars," Martin Hyman, lawyer for publisher Gruner + Jahr USA, said in opening statements in a Manhattan courtroom.

The magazine, launched in 2001, folded soon after O'Donnell resigned in September 2002. G+J is seeking $100 million from O'Donnell; she asks $125 million in a countersuit.

O'Donnell listened attentively to opening arguments but showed no reaction. She is expected to take the witness stand.

Hyman said the dispute began after a newly hired editor chose a cover photo of O'Donnell for the August 2002 edition that O'Donnell felt was unflattering.

Hyman said the editor, Susan Toepfer, ignored O'Donnell's request to use another photo -- and O'Donnell saw that as a sign she was losing control of the magazine. From that moment on, he said, O'Donnell was determined that either Toepfer would go or she would.

In her opening statement, O'Donnell's lawyer Bonnie Scofield defended O'Donnell's decision to walk away from the magazine, saying the publisher breached an agreement that gave her control of the magazine's editorial content.