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Attorneys seek new trial in dispute with Gordie Howe

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Attorneys want a new trial for a 2013 Oakland Circuit Court civil case in which Gordie Howe’s ex-business managers have been ordered to pay more than $3.2 million to the ailing hockey legend and his family.

The legal battle dates to 2007 when Detroit Red Wing legend Howe and his Power Play International Inc. company sued two former business managers, Del Reddy and Aaron Howard, and their company, Immortal Investments, for unpaid royalties from sport memorabilia shows where Howe appeared and autographed photos and other materials. That lawsuit ended in 2008 with a $60,000 settlement and an order that property, including recordings and books, all be returned to Howe. It also banned Immortal from profiting off Howe’s name or likeness.

But when it was learned boxes of materials to be returned were instead destroyed, Howe filed a second suit in 2011 for damages. In June 2013 a six-person jury returned a verdict of $3 million in favor of Howe and his company, which includes his two sons, Marty and Mark. Additionally, the Howes were awarded attorney fees, with interest, which amounts to more than $261,000.

“We think there is sufficient reason to have a new trial and if not that, certainly grounds for an appeal of the verdict,” said attorney Anthony A. Randazzo, who represents Immortal Investments and Del Reddy, Aaron Howard and Michael Reddy, Del’s father.

“We were supposed to have a hearing on this (new trial) by now but put it off due to Thanksgiving and out of respect for the Howe family who don’t need additional distractions right now,” he said. “We may be attorneys but we are human, too.”

Randazzo was referring to Howe, 86, of Bloomfield Hills who is reported in poor health after suffering a recent stroke at his daughter’s Texas home. He said a hearing on defense motions for a new trial is scheduled for January before Oakland Circuit Judge Leo Bowman.

Howe attorney Steven Matta could not be reached for comment Friday, but earlier said destroyed materials included “priceless” home videos. He said the materials were worth millions and represented a 10-year hole in the career of the beloved Wing.

Randazzo declined to discuss specifics of his request but court filings indicate he wants to have Howe’s chief trial witness, film producer Howard Baldwin, stopped from testifying at trial regarding damages. Randazzo told Bowman he feels Baldwin “lacks the requisite foundation and qualifications” as an expert and provided “unfounded speculation” that confused issues before the jury.

Randazzo had raised a similar argument during trial but was denied by Bowman.

“The fact that Mr. Baldwin was called to testify in this trial makes a mockery of our judicial system,” Randazzo wrote in recent filings asking for a new trial.

Baldwin was called to testify because he is a celebrity, a former owner of NHL hockey franchises, a movie producer and was a longtime friend and business partner of Howe’s, Randazzo said.

Matta noted many of the home videos involved Howe’s late wife, Colleen, 76, who died in 2009 of Pick’s Disease, a form of Alzheimer’s disease. Other videos included taped conversations between Howe and other hockey greats and sports legends, now lost forever.

The declining health of Howe, who set numerous NHL records in a career spanning six decades, was revealed during the eight-day trial. Mark Howe testified he began having real concerns about his famous father’s financial affairs in February 2008 when he heard Del Reddy slam Gordie Howe up against an office wall during an argument, knocking a framed picture to the floor. Howe rushed his father out of the office and Reddy and Howard resigned two weeks later claiming they were pushed out by Mark Howe.

Marty Howe testified his father began suffering memory problems of his own two years before Colleen’s death and was mentally incompetent.

Howe, who sat through the trial flanked by his two sons, was not called to testify by either side.

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