A Beverly Hills businessman did not have a valid verbal contract with a restaurant server that would entitle him to half of an $8.6 million payout sought by the waiter for allegedly helping set up Manny Pacquiao’s 2015 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., a judge says in a tentative ruling.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy issued his preliminary ruling Tuesday in the contract dispute between restaurant owner Richard “Richie” Palmer, and the server, Gabriel Rueda. The judge, who had taken the case under submission last Thursday, following a two-day, non-jury trial, said his decision will become final within 15 days barring any issues raised by either party.
Palmer’s lawyer, Cary Goldstein, told the judge during the trial 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.
Murphy wrote that the evidence, consisting of texts, emails and telephone calls, indeed established that Rueda sought Palmer’s assistance in arranging the meeting between Roach and Moonves and that Palmer provided the requested assistance to Rueda.
“Palmer, however, has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Rueda promised to split 50 percent of any finder’s fee or other compensation with Palmer,” Murphy wrote.
There is no writing corroborating any contract between Rueda and Palmer, the judge found.
“The evidence establishes that Palmer agreed to assist Rueda, but Palmer did not expect any compensation for his assistance,” the judge wrote.
Palmer, who founded the Mulberry Street Pizzeria chain, was once married to actress Raquel Welch. His hopes for any share of the finder’s fee were contingent on Murphy ruling in his favor and on Rueda winning his case, which is still awaiting trial.
Palmer testified 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.
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.
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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