By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Friends say that led to Stodghill splitting the sheets with Mike Lynn, a highly respected litigator married to federal Judge Barbara Lynn. Stodghill and Melsheimer left to open a local office for Boston-based Fish & Richardson. It was such an ugly divorce that neither party will talk about it.
It was made nastier by a bizarre, highly publicized lawsuit filed against Wagner, Cuban, Yahoo!, Stodghill and everyone in their orbit by a disgruntled entrepreneur named Kimball Norman, who alleged breach of contract and other wrongdoing. Believing they had Cuban and Wagner over a barrel, Norman and his lawyer filed a $4 billion lawsuit on the eve of Yahoo! going public.
The shakedown resulted in high-stakes, scorched-earth litigation that included allegations that Stodghill had bribed a judge. That brought out the Dark Knight; Stodghill went ballistic and threw everything he could at the opposition. (I wrote about this case for D magazine, "The Pirate Attack on Yahoo!," April 2001.)
Wagner and Cuban won a summary judgment, but only after the case and the numerous lawsuits it spawned bounced around more than a dozen courts and Stodghill had to hire a lawyer to defend himself before the State Bar of Texas. Not a good start for the next phase in Stodghill's life, initially funded by work for the two billionaires and their various interests.
Cuban bought the Mavericks; Wagner became a philanthropist. Together they formed 2929 Productions and started learning the entertainment business. The first movie they financed was 2004's Godsend, notable only for starring Robert De Niro.
But their fourth and fifth films--Good Night, and Good Luck and ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room--were nominated for seven Academy Awards. "We've gone from two guys in Texas who they're going to rip off, to a whole different vibe about us now," Wagner says. "We took our time and spent two years out there learning the industry."
And Stodghill tagged along. When Wagner and Stodghill flew on a private jet to Beijing, they clomped across the tarmac to say hi to Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, also visiting China in their private plane.
"I lead beyond a charmed life," Wagner says. "Cuban and I talk about it all the time. Steve is a good friend and comes on a lot of these kinds of things. I think there's always, 'Who's this guy?' But they take to Steve. I think most of the people he's gotten to know well, like Chris Tucker and George, they think he's great. He's just very likable."
It helps that Stodghill knows how to...
One of the first things Stodghill did after money started rolling in was find a Savile Row tailor.
"For a while there, every time you caught him he was going overseas to London for a fitting for his suits," Melsheimer says. "He's one of the few guys, who you ask for a tour of his house, will give you a tour of his closet."
Like a lot of newly rich men who go to charity events, Stodghill bought an expensive tuxedo.
Picture this. It's the premiere for Ocean's Twelve, and George Clooney is center stage. At the after-party, Wagner introduces Stodghill to Clooney, who is about to start filming Good Night, and Good Luck for 2929 Productions.
"George looks at me, and he looks at Steve," Wagner says. "All three of us are wearing Armani tuxedos. George steps back and he says, 'You two look fantastic!'"
It was die-and-go-to-heaven time for pudge-boy.
Ann Stodghill met her future husband at a deposition. A lawyer with long red hair, a movie-star figure and a degree from UT in math and economics, Ann was a fact witness in a lawsuit being handled by Stodghill. They were friendly, but each was involved with someone else.
Their relationship began six months later at a happy-hour gathering of lawyers. Stodghill had just settled a giant case and was in rare form, keeping most of those around him in stitches. "He had great bullshit," Ann says. But when the raconteur asked her out to dinner, Ann refused.
"I said, 'We don't have anything in common,'" Ann says. "I thought he was an overgrown frat boy from UT."
Stodghill persisted, and Ann agreed to one date at a local wine bar, where Stodghill ordered an expensive bottle of wine. They argued over splitting the bill. Ann did the feminist thing--"I pay my own way." He said no way.
Stodghill told her: "If this is a respect issue, I know your boss, I respect you and your work. Now stop being a bitch, and I'll treat you like a princess."
Ann was floored. "When I told my parents that story, they said, 'This is the one.'"
Ann wasn't quite convinced yet. She was 32, and Stodghill was 40. There must have been something wrong with him if he was still single.
On their next date Stodghill pulled a big power move, ordering Cristal champagne at Del Frisco's, then launching into the top 10 reasons she should date him. "I'm an unbelievably great guy, I can supply references, I've been in 19 weddings..." He got only as far as the fourth reason when they started fighting.