Houston-area apartment owner David O'Brien truly hopes the proposed Comcast
Corp. takeover of AT&T Broadband takes place. The impending deal could mean
a $5.3 million payday for him.
He's not a stockholder: He's a successful litigant who's been trying to
collect a judgment from the cable company for more than one year.
'I'm sitting here with a check I can't cash, in the form of a judgment,' he
said recently. He and his attorneys think AT&T Broadband may finally resolve
the dispute in order to remove this liability from the assets Comcast seeks to
The landlord's headaches began in 1996 when O'Brien, who owns one apartment
in a Houston suburb, contracted with a consultant for advice on negotiations
with telecommunications providers.
O'Brien's tenants contracted directly with vendors for service, and the
landlord wanted to change that policy.
The consultant, InteliCable Inc., found no current agreements binding the
property. But when O'Brien contacted the contracts manager for the then-cable
provider, TCI-TKR of Houston Inc., the landlord was told he already had a
contract for service.
The only problem: According to findings in court, those contracts were
At trial in April 2000, a jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Texas, Houston Division, found in favor of O'Brien. He was awarded
$4.5 million. At the time, AT&T Broadband's attorneys blamed the forged
documents on a 'contractor to a contractor.'
To make sure AT&T Broadband would pay promptly, the judgment requires
that interest accrue for every month O'Brien is not paid. Interest will total
$719,000 by the end of December.
AT&T Broadband's outside counsel on the case referred inquiries to the
company. An AT&T Broadband spokesman said the company is appealing but
provided no further information by deadline.
O'Brien's attorneys said the MSO filed a motion for an appeal but did not
post the necessary bond nor take other steps to further the appeal.
The landlord's legal bills now top $200,000.
'They're trying to win through attrition, hoping I'll accept pennies on the
dollar,' O'Brien said. With the Comcast deal looming, at least now AT&T
Broadband representatives are 'a little bit more responsive,' he