Rosie Acknowledges Lack of Control, Contradictions

In what was expected to be her last day on the stand in her breach of contract trial with former Rosie magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr USA, Rosie O'Donnell, under cross-examination, acknowledged some major discrepancies between her original deposition and her initial testimony over who she believed had ultimate editorial control over Rosie magazine.

The trial without jury is expected to conclude today. G+J is suing O'Donnell for $100 million, alleging that O'Donnell beached her contract by walking away from the publishing joint venture. O'Donnell is counter-suing for $125 million, alleging that G+J violated their agreement by cutting her out of editorial decision-making.

Under cross-examination by G+J's attorney Marty Hyman, O'Donnell admitted not having read her agreement with G+J and that she was not clear whether she, in fact, had the creative control she said G+J CEO Dan Brewster had assured her of. She also conceded, that as editorial director, her responsibilities did not include the hiring and firing of staff, or determining or distributing compensation levels, which would seem to be key facts given that it was G+J's appointment of Susan Toepfer as Rosie magazine's new editor that precipitated her walking out on the publication.



Regarding the first altercation with Susan Toepfer, Hyman asked Rosie if she thought it was appropriate for the editor in chief to express his or her ideas or to disagree with an editorial director, to which O'Donnell admitted it was in fact part of an editor's job to suggest changes and carry them through.

Hyman also asked if the decision about the magazine covers-as stipulated in the contract-was entirely up to her. During her testimony, O'Donnell said yes, but in her previous deposition she claimed the opposite: "No, it was up to everyone on the senior staff," citing consultant Susan Ungaro, former editor-in-chief Cathy Cavender and Brewster. Afterwards, O'Donnell said that she had been "inaccurate" in her deposition.

O'Donnell also acknowledged to not having total control over the creative and editorial operations of the magazine, clearly stating that she understood Brewster always had the power to veto any decisions. Later, O'Donnell admitted that, in practice, Brewster never vetoed a single photo, story, or cover-except the Christopher Reeve cover - and O'Donnell said she couldn't name a single issue during Toepfer's tenure in which she was thoroughly dissatisfied with the content.

Hyman cited an interview with Mediaweek in which O'Donnell praised and said she would defer to the editorial expertise of Toepfer and called Rosie's run under Cavender "boring." Following that interview and Toepfer's appointment, Hyman said O'Donnell issued a statement claiming she was surprised that Cavender was leaving as editor and that new editor Toepfer would report to Brewster.

Hyman accusing O'Donnell of lying, said, "You knew well before Susan Toepfer started based on the press release and the Mediaweek article that Toepfer would be reporting to Dan Brewster."

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