Attorneys for the principals in a suit against Abe Pollin, the general partner of Capital Centre and owner of the Washington Bullets and Washington Capitals, met yesterday with Prince George's Circuit Judge Albert T. Blackwell Jr. to discuss a possible settlement, according to sources close to the case. No settlement was reached, and the trial went into its eighth day.
No other details were available. Blackwell declined to comment, as did attorneys for Pollin and for Arnold Heft, who is suing Pollin for what he terms improper diversion of Capital Centre funds to the financially struggling Bullets and Capitals in June 1982.
Heft, who has one-third interest in Capital Centre, is asking that two adjustments in agreements between the arena and the Bullets and Capitals, which in effect returned $860,000 to the teams, be rescinded and an accounting of their effects be made. The adjustments concern such matters as refunds from the arena to the teams for Telscreen user fees and box-office fees, as well as charging the Centre for season tickets that formerly were complimentary.
Yesterday, much of the time was spent by Pollin's attorneys in an attempt to have Michael Crowley disallowed as an expert witness on behalf of Heft. After an hour of vigorous questioning by Pollin's attorneys, Crowley was received as an expert witness by Blackwell.
Crowley, 45, of Las Vegas, said he is president of Entertainment Management Consultants, most recently serving as a consultant to Caesars Palace in its sports promotions department. He said he had worked for several sports facilities and teams, most notably the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee; the Houston Sports Association, which operates the Astrodome and the Houston Astros, and Madison Square Garden. He also managed two U.S. tours of the Rolling Stones and was general manager of Capital Centre for one year until being asked to leave in June 1974, he said.
John Miles, an attorney for Pollin, described Crowley as "a jack of all trades and master of none," and maintained Crowley had insufficient experience in the area of professional team sports and their operation to be considered an expert witness.
In testimony heard earlier in the trial, Edmund Stelzer, comptroller for the Capitals and Capital Centre, and Jerry Sachs, president of the Centre and executive vice president of the Bullets, testified the adjustments should have been made earlier than June 29, 1982. Sachs, while admitting the original agreements favored the arena at the expense of the teams, said no adjustments had been made earlier because attempts were being made to sell the teams and the Centre wanted to ensure the agreements would remain in effect should a buyer or buyers be found.
Sachs said the adjustments were "righting a wrong" and denied they were made because the teams' liabilities at that point were more than $1 million, above the limit set by the Centre's bond agreement. Sachs said that when he told Pollin in early June 1982 that the teams for years had been paying more than they should have, Pollin "was surprised and perhaps ready to fire me."
The trial is expected to last at least another week.