A Beverly Hills businessman is owed half of an $8.6 million payout being sought by a restaurant server for allegedly helping set up Manny Pacquiao’s 2015 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., his attorney told a judge Thursday, but a lawyer for the waiter said the man was promised nothing and is entitled to just that.
The two sides gave their closing statements to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy, who conducted a non-jury trial on whether a verbal contract existed between the businessman, Richard “Richie” Palmer, and the server, Gabriel Rueda. Murphy took the case under submission and said he will rule next week.
Palmer, who founded the Mulberry Street Pizzeria chain and was once married to actress Raquel Welch, wants the judge to find that he is entitled to 50 percent of what Rueda may obtain through any judgment in the server’s own case, in which he is seeking a finder’s fee from Pacquiao and others for his alleged role in setting the groundwork for the fight.
Palmer’s hopes for any share of the finder’s fee are contingent on Murphy ruling in his favor and on Rueda winning his case, which is still awaiting trial.
Palmer’s lawyer, Cary Goldstein, told the judge that Palmer completed his part of the deal when he arranged a meeting between Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and then-CBS President Leslie Moonves in May 2014. Roach, a longtime friend of Roach, was reluctant to speak to Rueda, according to Goldstein.
“He needed him (Palmer) because he couldn’t get to Mr. Roach,” Goldstein said. “Who has corroborated Mr. Rueda’s testimony about there not being a deal?”
Palmer testified Wednesday that he was a customer at Craig’s restaurant in West Hollywood in May 2014 when Rueda, who worked there at the time, approached him and said he had an idea about how the two could both make some money. On a subsequent date, Rueda promised he would give Palmer a split of his finder’s fee if Palmer could convince Roach to meet with Moonves regarding a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, Palmer said.
The meeting between Roach and Moonves took place at the Scarpetta restaurant at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel. Palmer testified he later read in a newspaper that Rueda filed a lawsuit in February 2016 seeking the $8.6 million finder’s fee, naming as defendants Pacquiao, Roach, CBS, Showtime Entertainment and Keith Davidson, described in the plaintiff’s court papers as a lawyer for “Roach, Pacquiao and a few other powerful people.”
Palmer said Rueda never told him he was going to sue for the finder’s fee.
“I think Mr. Palmer was upset he was clearly being taken advantage of,” his attorney told the judge.
Goldstein said Rueda, who has worked as an actor, followed a “detailed script” during his testimony and gave “prepared answers.”
But Rueda’s lawyer, Amman Khan, told Murphy that Roach’s absence from the trial was noteworthy, given his longtime friendship with Palmer.
“Why didn’t he come to testify?” Khan asked. “His absence from this case is very telling.”
Khan denied Rueda’s testimony was scripted.
“Mr. Rueda has lived with this case for five years,” Khan said. “This isn’t a script. The truth doesn’t need rehearsing.”
According to Rueda’s lawsuit, he was Moonves’ waiter at Craig’s and told him he could introduce him to Roach in order to break the ice between Al Haymon and Bob Arum, the promoters for Mayweather and Pacquiao, respectively.
The Rueda lawsuit says that he arranged a meeting between Roach and Moonves, with an agreement that he would get a 2 percent finder’s fee of gross fight proceeds paid to CBS, Showtime Network, Pacquiao and Roach.
Rueda testified Thursday that he attended the meeting between Moonves and Roach and was on “cloud 9” afterward.
“I knew in my mind that the fight was going to happen in the coming year,” Rueda said.
Rueda said Moonves agreed to his request for a finder’s fee. He said he never had a deal to split it with Palmer and that he declined Palmer’s offer to help arrange the meeting between Palmer and Roach.
Rueda called the Pacquiao-Mayweather bout “the fight that everyone wanted to see” and said that little happened until he came up with “the creative plan to make it happen.”
In a sworn declaration, Roach said he was unaware that Palmer and Rueda expected to receive a finder’s fee for setting up a meeting between the trainer and Moonves, who stepped down as CBS’ president, chairman and CEO in September 2018 after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Had anyone told me or indicated that they expected a cash fee or any compensation for setting up that meeting, I certainly would not have gone,” Roach said, adding that he did not know Rueda and “had to be convinced to go to the meeting.”
Pacquiao, now 40, was hobbled by a shoulder injury during the fight and lost to Mayweather, now, 42, by unanimous decision when the two fought on May 2, 2015.
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