Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Lawsuit accuses Ruth Eckerd Hall of unfair business practices

TREASURE ISLAND — Two of the area's biggest music promoters will be squaring off in court.

Music promoter Bill Edwards filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court against Ruth Eckerd Hall, accusing the Clearwater concert hall of unfair business practices.

Bill Edwards Presents Inc. is seeking more than $1 million in damages and also alleges defamation and tortious interference.

A spokeswoman for Ruth Eckerd Hall did not return phone messages for comment Tuesday night.

Specifically, the suit alleges Ruth Eckerd Hall booked two entertainers who subsequently canceled previously scheduled appearances at the Club at Treasure Island, which Bill Edwards Presents operates.

The lawsuit says actor and singer Danny Aiello and comedian Louie Anderson both canceled performances at the Club at Treasure Island. Officials at the club later uncovered evidence showing that Ruth Eckerd Hall had communicated with representatives for the entertainers, according to a news release announcing the suit Tuesday night.

It was unclear how the communications were uncovered or what might have been said in them. Attorneys for Bill Edwards Presents, Inc., could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.

Bill Edwards, the local mortgage magnate and president of the company, described the alleged tactics as "bullying," and had his attorneys reach out to Ruth Eckerd Hall's board of directors, the release states.

"It was so disheartening to discover that this was taking place," the news release quoted Edwards as saying.

The company then received a legal notice from Ruth Eckerd Hall ordering them to "preserve evidence" related to the Mahaffey Theatre.

Ruth Eckerd and Edwards' company Big 3 Entertainment both were in the running for the contract to manage St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater. City leaders decided to go with Edwards in April 2011.

"The Mahaffey isn't even part of this action," Edwards said in the release. "I guess they're trying to undermine all the good work we are doing. I won't let that happen."

Edwards also bought the city's troubled BayWalk shopping plaza, which he is redeveloping as the Shops at St. Pete.

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