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TV Millionaire bosses win $270m victory over Disney

THE production company which created Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was celebrating a multi-million pound "David and Goliath" legal victory against Disney today over profits from the game show.

A jury in Los Angeles awarded British company Celador $269m (f212m) in damages after ruling it failed to receive a fair share of profits from Disney's screening of the programme in the US.

Celador chairman Paul Smith described the US court ruling as "justice" after fighting for eight years to obtain money the company was owed.

He said Celador had refused to give up during the fight despite the "daunting prospect" of taking on a "giant".

"Disney is an absolute giant and we are a tiny little minnow. I don't think they believed a small independent producer would go after them and indeed be so determined. We were not going to give up."

Mr Smith said he screamed when he first learned of the court's decision via a brief email from Celador's lawyer and described the news as a "relief".

He said the dispute centred on Celador's contract with Disney which "very clearly stated" what the company was entitled to from the profits.

Disney said it would "aggressively" appeal against the decision.

Lead Celador lawyer Roman Silberfeld said Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which was first hosted by Regis Philbin, became very successful for Disney-owned US network ABC in 1999 and 2000, allowing them to charge more in ad revenues.

He said profits were supposed to be shared 50-50 with Celador but "ABC and a series of affiliated companies entered into a series of agreements that were solely intended to show Millionaire never showed a profit".

"If you look at an accounting statement today, after 10 years on the air, it says it has lost money every year and is $75m in the red," Mr Silberfeld said.