Founders of Broadway producer Livent lose appeal

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 13, 2011 12:44 PM
Founders of Broadway producer Livent lose appeal

TORONTO (Reuters) - An Ontario court has upheld fraud convictions against the two Canadian theater impresarios behind the 1990s Broadway hits "Show Boat" and "Ragtime", but has reduced their sentences.

In a decision released Tuesday morning, Ontario Court of Appeal rejected a request for a new trial by Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, founders of now defunct theater production company Livent Inc.

But the court reduced Drabinsky's sentence to five years from seven and Gottlieb's to four years from six.

In March 2009, the two men were convicted of fraud and forgery. The forgery conviction was later stayed.

The appeals court said the lower court should have taken into account the fact that there was no evidence of actual financial losses caused by the fraud.

Prosecutors argued the pair had directed accountants to falsify Livent's records and artificially boost earnings to attract investment.

The lower court found that Drabinsky and Gottlieb had also devised a scheme to book false invoices, inflating the company's assets.

On appeal, defense lawyer Edward Greenspan argued that former employees who testified against Drabinsky and Gottlieb were unreliable, and that government lawyers had not proven the pair knew about the fraud.

Livent, which went public in 1993, was the force behind more than dozen major productions in New York and Toronto, including a Broadway success with a revival of the musical "Show Boat". Livent's shows won a total of 14 Tony awards.

The company went bankrupt in 1998 after the fraud allegations came to light.

With this judgment, Drabinsky and Gottlieb have nearly run out of avenues to escape jail time. Rulings from Ontario's high court can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, but it may not agree to hear the case.

(Reporting by Allison Martell; editing by Peter Galloway)