NEW YORK, OCT. 6 -- For the past five months, archrivals Pennzoil Co. and Texaco Inc. have held no talks aimed at settling their multibillion dollar legal dispute over a merger contract, Pennzoil chairman J. Hugh Liedtke disclosed today.
Liedtke said he has not spoken to executives or representatives of Texaco about a possible settlement since April, when Texaco filed for federal bankruptcy protection citing a deteriorating credit picture caused by Pennzoil's $10.3 billion judgment against Texaco.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with stock analysts here, Liedtke said he would be willing to resume settlement talks if Texaco is prepared to make an offer different from proposals discussed by the two oil giants earlier this year.
"We'll accept a collect call," Liedtke said.
Just prior to Texaco's bankruptcy filing, Liedtke turned down a $2 billion settlement offer from Texaco. Pennzoil later said it would accept $4.1 billion to settle its lawsuit against Texaco.
Texaco tonight issued a statement blasting Pennzoil's motives.
Liedtke's remarks came as both sides in the nearly four-year-old legal dispute are anxiously awaiting word about whether the Texas Supreme Court will hear Texaco's latest appeal. A decision by the court is expected in the next several weeks.
If the Texas high court declines to hear Texaco's appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court stands as the last forum where Pennzoil's verdict could be stuck down.
Pennzoil was awarded a record $10.53 billion in November 1985, when a Houston jury found that Texaco improperly interfered with a merger contract between Pennzoil and Getty Oil Co. Texaco appealed the jury verdict to the Texas Court of Appeals, which upheld all but $2 billion of the jury's award, plus interest.
At its meeting with stock analysts today, Pennzoil staged a kind of dress rehearsal of the legal arguments its lawyers will make, if necessary, before the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Key members of Pennzoil's high-priced legal team -- John Jeffers, Simon Rifkind and Harvard constitutional law Prof. Laurence Tribe -- discussed pending legal issues in the case.