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Simpson's 'If I Did It' rights to be auctioned to pay judgment

March 14, 2007|Charles Proctor | Times Staff Writer

"If I Did It," O.J. Simpson's hypothetical account of how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend, has yet to see the light of day. But now the public will have a chance to bid for the rights to publish it.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered Tuesday that "all rights, title and interest" held by Simpson to the unpublished book be auctioned off on the steps of a Sacramento County courthouse, and that any revenues go to the family of the friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman.

The order also applies to any rights held by Lorraine Brooke Associates Inc., the company that represented Simpson in the deal with publisher HarperCollins.

Sacramento was chosen because it's where the in-state agent for HarperCollins is located.The judge also ruled that any compensation due Simpson because of the book deal will go to the Goldman family instead. The family has been trying to collect an estimated $38 million from Simpson in a wrongful death lawsuit.

No date for the auction was set. Lawyers representing Fred Goldman, Ronald's father, said it could take place as early as the end of March.

"As soon as I go home," said Goldman lawyer David Cook, holding up the court order, "I'm going to give this to FedEx, send it to the Sacramento County sheriff and tell them, 'Sell this sucker.' "

Lawyers for Goldman said they intend to bid for the rights, though they declined to speculate what Goldman would do with them. They said the important thing was to keep any profit from the book out of Simpson's hands.

"In the event that someone goes to publish this thing, we have guaranteed that Simpson never sees a dime," said Jonathan Polak.

Attorneys for Simpson characterized the order as a "hollow victory," because they said it applied only to any income generated in California, not in Florida, where Simpson lives."Can they take a California decision that orders a sheriff to sell intangible rights, and use it in Florida or New York?" asked Ron Slates, one of Simpson's lawyers. "No, they can't."

The order is the latest chapter in the saga of "If I Did It." The book was scheduled to be released Nov. 30 by Regan, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The Fox network, also owned by News Corp., was to air a two-part interview with Simpson days before the book release.

In the book and television interviews, the former star football player and actor would give a "bone-chilling account of the night of the murders" of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, according to a statement from HarperCollins.

Simpson, who was acquitted of the murders in a criminal trial but found responsible for the slayings in a civil case, said the account was entirely fictional.

An uproar from stations, advertisers and the public led HarperCollins to cancel the book and broadcasts and it factored into HarperCollins' decision to fire Judith Regan, the publisher who brokered the deal.

No other publisher has bought the rights.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Gerald Rosenberg initially signed an order that Simpson's lawyers argued allowed for the sale of Simpson's rights to the book, but not those of Lorraine Brooke Associates. But another order later in the day stated that the rights of both parties would be auctioned.

Goldman's lawyers declined to speculate on how much the rights might be worth, though they pointed out that Regan reportedly paid Simpson $3.5 million for the book and TV deal.

"You never know how much money this is going to generate," said Peter Haven, one of the Goldman attorneys. "Who knows how much people will bid on it?"

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charles.proctor@latimes.com

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