DETROIT -- A verdict in the fraud trial pitting billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian against DaimlerChrysler is not expected until late this year "at the earliest," a lawyer for the automaker said Friday.
Testimony in the trial, over terms of the 1998 linkup between Germany's Daimler-Benz and America's Chrysler Corp., ended late Wednesday with both sides claiming victory.
But the trial itself, which began in December and was interrupted by a prolonged recess, is far from over, says DaimlerChrysler attorney Michael Schell.
Although scheduling is still tentative, Schell said lawyers were unlikely to submit their closing briefings to Judge Joseph Farnan of U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., before late spring.
Farnan, who held the so-called bench trial without a jury, will then have to sort through a voluminous trial record, already about 2,500 pages long and mined with "intricate factual issues," before deciding a verdict, Schell said.
"He's got to do a complete opinion that addresses all the contentions of the parties ... I'm confident he can't do it overnight," Schell told Reuters.
He said his best guess as to when Farnan would make his verdict known was "in the fourth quarter at the earliest."
Kerkorian, Chrysler's leading shareholder when it agreed to the $36 billion deal creating the world's fifth-largest automaker, claims it was only billed as a "merger of equals" to lower the transaction price and allow Daimler to avoid paying an acquisition fee or "control premium" for Chrysler.
Schell disputes that but acknowledged that Farnan has "a big job" ahead of him.
The DaimlerChrysler trial has drawn widespread media attention, due at least in part to the postmerger dominance of German managers at a company long seen as an icon of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
But for Peter Henning, who teaches corporate law at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, interest in the case stemmed primarily from the fact that Kerkorian, a Las Vegas casino mogul, took on DaimlerChrysler almost singlehandedly.
"This is the one time a large company has faced someone with very deep pockets. You don't see this very often," Henning said.
"The last time you saw this kind of a clash of the titans was when the Dodge brothers took on Henry Ford around 1915."
Like Kerkorian, the Dodge brothers claimed they were duped by an automotive giant into a deal or partnership that quickly turned sour.
Kerkorian is seeking more than $1 billion in damages