Lawsuit Lottery: The Let’s Rip Off The Huffington Post Edition

Although I’m not a big fan of Arianna Huffington or the Huffington Post, this lawsuit strikes me as a massive pile of horseflop,

Two Democratic consultants are accusing Arianna Huffington and her business partner of stealing their idea for the powerhouse liberal website Huffington Post.

Peter Daou and James Boyce charge that Huffington and partner Ken Lerer designed the website from a plan they had presented them, and in doing so, violated a handshake agreement to work together, according to a lawsuit to be filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

…Huffington called the charge of stolen ideas and broken deals “a completely absurd, ludicrous supposition” from men whom she’d turned down for jobs on the site.

“We have now officially entered into Bizzaro World. James Boyce and Peter Daou, two political operatives who we rejected going into business with or hiring 6 years ago, and who had absolutely nothing to do with creating, running, financing, or building the Huffington Post, now concoct some scheme saying they own part of the company,” she and Lerer said in a written statement to POLITICO, writing that the two “tried to cash in” before filing suit and “said they’d go away for just a little money.”

…Both sides agree that their dispute hinges on two days in early December of 2004, beginning with a gathering Huffington’s Brentwood home.

In Huffington’s version, she and a group of friends, including the film mogul David Geffen, Lerer, and others, kicked around ideas for retaking the media for the left.

“After the ’04 presidential race, I had a meeting to discuss the role media had played in the election,” she told the magazine Inc. earlier this year. “We discussed creating a platform that would be a combination of 24/7 news and a collective blog. That was the beginning of the Huffington Post.”

Lerer, a former AOL executive who once worked as a spokesman for junk bond king Michael Milken, later involved other Internet gurus — the marketing expert Jonah Perretti, and Drudge collaborator Andrew Breitbart — in their launch, and Daou and Boyce aren’t the first to contest the Huffington Post’s lineage.

“I created the Huffington Post,” Breitbart told Wired in March, prompting Huffington to reply that he “wasn’t present” for the initial 2004 meeting.

Daou and Boyce contest in their complaint that they were present — and that according to a “contemporaneous transcript” cited in the complaint, “neither Huffington nor Lerer said anything even vaguely reminiscent of the Huffington Post.” Only Daou “vigorously evangelized for the use of the Internet,” the complaint says.

The site, liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald wrote in an email cited in the complaint, would be “our Drudge.”

The real birth of Huffington Post, they allege, was the next day, December 4. That morning, Daou, Boyce, Huffington, and Lerer met again at Huffington’s house and discussed the plan in more detail, according to the complaint. Daou and Boyce allege that the framework for the site had been described in a memorandum Boyce had given Huffington the previous month, which outlined a political website on which “political luminaries and public figures should be invited to blog.”

“At the conclusion of the December 4 meeting, Peter, James, Huffington, and Lerer all shook hands and Huffington stated, ‘It will be great to work together,’” the complaint says.

The plaintiffs have no written contract, and no evidence that Huffington and Lerer considered them formal partners, though they did produce an email in which they appear to describe Huffington and Lerer as their partners.

Do they have a contract? No. Did Huffington ever describe them as partners? No. Did they do anything of significance to get the HuffPo financed, bring in the big names, or promote it? No.

All they really did was kicked around a few ideas — and honestly, suggesting that “political luminaries and public figures should be invited to blog” isn’t all that unique. Conservative websites like Townhall had been running articles from big name conservative columnists for years before the HuffPO came along. Saying to Arianna, “Gee, you know celebrities, so you should ask some of them to blog isn’t exactly a ground breaking idea.” Moreover, it doesn’t actually provide the investment dollars or the celebrities that helped HuffPO make a name for itself. Did Daou or Boyce have anything to do with that? No, they didn’t. In other words, even if everything Daou and Boyce said is true, they did nothing of significance to make the Huffington Post a success and they deserve nothing for their non-effort. Moreover, the fact that they’re even trying to get money out of this despite the fact that they’ve done nothing to earn it speaks very poorly of their character.

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