Archie Comics executives settle bitter, bizarre legal battle

The yearlong legal feud for control of Archie Comics has ended with a settlement that restores embattled Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit to her position at the company. However, the confidential agreement was criticized by the granddaughters of Archie co-founder John L. Goldwater, who claim that both executives' "hands are dirty."

The Associated Press reports that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich approved the deal Wednesday, bringing to a close the bitter, and frequently outlandish, dispute between Silberkleit and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater that became public in July 2011, when Archie accused Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees and sued to bar her from the company's Mamaroneck, New York, headquarters.

Silberkleit, who stepped into the role of co-CEO in 2009, following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit (son of Archie Comics co-founder Louis Silberkleit), countered that Jon Goldwater is a chauvinist who was mounting a smear campaign to drive her out of the company, and sought $100 million in damages for defamation. The fight escalated in January when Goldwater, son of John L. Goldwater, sued to have Silberkleit removed as a director and CEO, claiming, "Unless Silberkleit is removed as a director and an officer, the company -- an iconic American company -- is in serious danger of failing and being liquidated." That was quickly followed by a temporary restraining order prohibiting Silberkleit from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.

Wednesday's settlement allows Silberkleit, who as co-executor of her late husband’s estate, controls a 50 percent stake in Archie, to return to the office and resume her duties overseeing the company's scholastic and live theatrical endeavors. Goldwater, who owns 25 percent of the shares, handles everything else. The remaining shares are held by a trust established by Goldwater's half-brother Richard Goldwater, who passed away in 2007.

“Nancy Silberkleit and Jon Goldwater are no longer in an adversarial position, and they are beginning their working relationship anew,” Silberkleit’s attorney, Howard Simmons, said in a statement. “She’s thrilled to have settled this extremely upsetting matter.”

Kornreich signed off on the settlement over the objections of Richard Goldwater's daughters, Lisa, Taylor and Summer Goldwater, who, after initially sitting on the sidelines, now accuse their uncle Jon Goldwater of misusing Archie assets and Silberkleit of drawing a company salary while still working as a teacher. In court papers, one of the daughters' attorneys said the agreement is little more than a reciprocal exchange between "two directors who have been stealing from the company, or aiding and abetting each other's theft."

The judge said that while three didn't have a legal standing to insert themselves into the settlement, the Richard Goldwater estate is free to pursue its own lawsuit.

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