Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Judge dismisses Bill Edwards' lawsuit against Ruth Eckerd Hall

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ST. PETERSBURG — The slugfest between two of the area's biggest music promoters was brought to a temporary halt, but is far from over.

Three months after music promoter Bill Edwards sued Ruth Eckerd Hall alleging unfair business practices, a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge dismissed the case. Edwards sought more than $2 million in damages and accused the Clearwater performing arts center of poaching performers from his Club at Treasure Island.

Judge W. Douglas Baird dismissed the case in early November, but his two-page ruling did not state a reason. He gave Edwards 10 days to file an amended lawsuit with more specific information about his claims. Edwards' lawyer did that last week.

Ruth Eckerd Hall is now asking for that also to be dismissed. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 11.

The original lawsuit fueled harsh rhetoric between Edwards and Ruth Eckerd.

"We believe in the American justice system," Zev Buffman, CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, said Monday about the ruling.

Edwards said he is eager to state his case before the judge.

"I am looking forward to a hearing so justice can prevail," he said Monday.

In the lawsuit, Edwards accused Ruth Eckerd Hall's staffers of forcing two performers, actor and singer Danny Aiello and comedian Louie Anderson, into backing out of shows scheduled for October and December at his club.

Edwards also accused the staffers of speaking disparagingly about him and his club to the two performers. Club officials later uncovered evidence showing that Ruth Eckerd Hall had communicated with representatives for the entertainers.

"We've got enough written testimony to kill them," Edwards said in August. "We've got enough evidence, correspondence back and forth (between Ruth Eckerd Hall and performers) to take care of it."

At the time, Edwards said he asked his attorney to reach out privately to Ruth Eckerd Hall's board of directors, hoping the venue's staffers would stop their "bullying tactics."

The lawsuit wasn't the first battle between the two groups.

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

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

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

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