For more than 15 years, Kevin Costner and a small team of engineers worked to develop centrifugal oil-water separators
capable of immediate impact in the event of an oil spill
. It took the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster in the Gulf before the industry started paying attention, but when they did, Costner his company, Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS), suddenly became flush with cash.
While this seems like the perfect Hollywood ending, at least two people previously invested in OTS are claiming foul play. That one of them happens to be Stephen Baldwin makes the case all the more intriguing.
In late 2010
, the 46-year-old filed the lawsuit claiming that he and another minority partner in Costner's Ocean Therapy Solutions company were duped into selling their shares just before BP made a massive investment in the firm. Costner called the claims untrue and misleading and asked for the suit to be dismissed. The judge allowed it to proceed, and yesterday jury selection began for Baldwin vs. Costner.
As you would expect, the animosity on both sides is high. Trial lawyers for Costner and Baldwin threw around words like "greed," "power" and "duplicity." At stake is $21 million claimed by the prosecution in damages. Both actors are expected to testify.
“We have spills every day around the world," Costner told The Hollywood Reporter. "We don’t have an adult response to how to clean it up. I knew how to do it 20 years ago in a very engineered, scientific way. But the oil industry didn’t beat a path to my door. Twenty million dollars of my own money later, I have the Baldwin lawsuit, and it’s completely upsetting to me.”
I'll be covering this one closely, especially since at this point there does not appear to be any real reason to root for either side. Baldwin's suit alleges he was duped into believing the company was failing. Costner says Baldwin knew about the BP deal but dropped his 10 percent stake because of financial issues. All of it sounds suspicious.
Judge Martin Feldman says he expects the trial to last about two weeks. Stay tuned.