A Texas judge has told an Australian publisher to set aside $US10 million ($A13.
96 million) for a former business partner who says she was defrauded out of her share from the sale of the erotic best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey and two companion novels.
State District Judge Susan McCoy says she wants the money deposited in a court registry by September 25 as lawyers seek to negotiate a judgment amount for Jennifer Pedroza, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Arlington.
A jury earlier this year determined that Amanda Hayward, one of Pedroza’s former business partners in e-book publisher The Writers Coffee Shop, cut Pedroza out of her share of royalties from the $US40 million ($A55.82 million) sale of the EL James trilogy to Random House.
Hayward reached a settlement with another woman involved in the venture. The terms of that deal were sealed.
The trilogy’s first volume flew off of the shelves when it was released in 2011, and the three books have sold more than 125 million copies worldwide and spawned a movie starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, with two sequels also planned.
According to court records, Pedroza says Hayward used “chicanery” to cheat her out of her rightful share. Accountants have determined that Pedroza’s 25 per cent stake in the online publishing venture was worth approximately $US10.7 million ($A14.93 million).
Pedroza’s attorney, Michael Farris, says Hayward restructured the venture to effectively make Pedroza an independent contractor and then fired her. He says Pedroza has had to return to teaching, and now works at a Fort Worth school.
One of Hayward’s attorneys, Dallas lawyer Robert Kantner, said that Hayward plans to appeal. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Hayward’s lawyers have said she doesn’t have $US10 million in cash, and that the judge noted her most valuable asset is her home in a Sydney suburb.
The two sides are expected to return to court in late September.