Allen & Co., the investment banking firm, said yesterday it has instructed its legal counsel to sue The New York Times for $150 million for what it claimed are "false and defamatory" statements in an article scheduled to appear in this Sunday's issue of The New York Times Magazine.
"We have no comment at the present time," said a spokesmafor The New York Times Co.
The article by Lucian K. Truscott IV, a free lancer, is called "Hollywood's Wall Street connection: what has become known as the Begelman affair is really a story of high finance and the money that fuels the glamour business."
As the title indicates and as the Allen statement charged, the focus of the article is not so much Begelman - who recently resigned as the head of Columbia Studios after the furor following revelations he had embezzled more than $60.000 from the company - but Allen & Co., which own 7 percent of Columbia stock and its founder, Charles Allen Jr.
The New York Stock Exchange yesterday would not let Columbia shares open for trading because of the upcoming article which has been widely promoted in advertisements. On Thursday, Columbia stock closed down $1 at $14.37 with the upcoming article cited as a major reason.
Allen & Co. yesterday released a four-page letter which it delivered to the New York Times including rebuttals to what it called "ten specific factual falsehoods" in the article. It said the times after a meeting yesterday, had refused to withdraw the article from publication on Sunday.
Specifically, Herbert A. Allen, chairman of Allen & Co., and a member of the Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. board, denied an assertion in the article that one reason Begelman was initially reinstated by the Columbia board was because Allen & Co. was trying to sell its Columbia shares and wanted to keep the price of the stock up.
"The Allen position in the company, aggregating approximately 7 percent, has not been up for sale at any time since it was acquired in 1973," according to the letter to the Times.
Columbia Pictures Industries President Alan J. Hirschfield in a separate statement said, "There is no basis for the premise upon which this article is based - that Mr. Begelman was reinstated as president of the motion picture and television divisions because of an alleged plan of Allen & Co. to sell its position in Columbia stock."
Allen & Co. in its statement also attacked what it said was a "false innuendo" in the article purporting to link Charles Allen Jr. with a casino in the Bahamas once rumored to have been infiltrated by Meyer Lansky." Lansky has been identified as a prime figure in organized crime.
"The Allen investment in Grand Bahamas was a minority investment made about 20 years ago in the Grand Bahama Port Authority," the letter to The Times said. "We know of no association of any kind between the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Meyer Lansky. We have never had anything to do with him. To imply otherwise, as the article does, and to embellish the innuendo by the repeated "godfather" labels, with all of the intended implications that flow from such a characterization, is, under the circumstances, reckless and malicious."
Allen & Co. in its letter objecting to the article, said "references to 'organized crime bagmen' and 'offshore funny money,' and the references to 'the darker aspects of Allen & Co's. connection to Hollywood,' are the shoddy means by which the author, having already labelled Charles Allen Jr. as a 'godfather,' ties him by innuendo to Meyer Lansky, a recognized organized crime figure."
The firm said Charles Allen Jr. and Herbert A. Allen will join it in its suit against the Times. And it warned that its counsel has been instructed to commerce similar action against any other newspaper or radio or TV station which repeats the allegedly "defamatory statements" in the article.