Stephen Baldwin sues Kevin Costner over sale of oil spill cleanup devices to BP
Kevin Costner made headlines in the summer of 2010 when he persuaded BP to buy 32 water-cleaning devices as part of its effort to clean up its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Now fellow Hollywood star Stephen Baldwin is suing Mr. Costner in federal court, alleging the famed actor and director cheated him and a friend out of millions in profit by not telling them of the pending sale to BP when they sold their shares of the company.
The Costner-Baldwin trial opens today in a New Orleans courtroom under U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who last month ruled that all litigants involved in the case must be present in trial every day due to “the seriousness of the claims and issues raised by the parties” and in case of mid-trial settlement talks. Both Mr. Costner and Mr. Baldwin are expected to testify.
Mr. Costner’s company Ocean Therapy Solutions specializes in devices that separate oil from water using centrifugal force. He acquired the company from the U.S. government in 1995 for $24 million in the hope of expediting future oil spill cleanups after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989.
The company attracted little interest from the oil industry until the BP oil spill, which flooded the Gulf with more than 200 million gallons of crude oil. With the blown-out Macondo well gushing out of control off the Louisiana coast, BP took 6 of Mr. Costner’s centrifuges for testing. In June, the company ordered 26 additional devices from Ocean Therapy Solutions.
Mr. Baldwin alleges he and his friend/fellow plaintiff Spyridon Contogouris didn’t know about the $52-million deal when they agreed to sell their shares of Ocean Therapy Solutions. The men claim they were intentionally excluded from a June meeting between Mr. Costner and BP officials negotiating the purchase. The men say that they are entitled to a share of the $18-million deposit BP officials made on the centrifuges.
Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Contogouris also assert in their lawsuit that Mr. Costner schemed to use the deposit money to buy their shares of Ocean Therapy Solutions.
Mr. Costner claims he did not attend the meeting in which Mr. Contogouris agreed to sell his interest in the company. According to a court document offering a summary of Mr. Costner’s version of events, “Not only did Costner not know that Plaintiffs were negotiating to sell their OTS interests, he was surprised and offended by the idea that Contogouris and Baldwin would walk away from OTS with almost $2 million in cash despite having invested no money in the company, and at a time when a contract with BP was uncertain to materialize.”
The plaintiffs seek more than $21 million in damages. Mr. Costner and other defendants named in the lawsuit have filed counterclaims against Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Contogouris. The jury trial is expected to last two weeks.
The Associated Press
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