Corey wins $17.5M in airport suit

ATLANTA -- Billy Corey spoke Tuesday as if he had won a battle "for the little guys." Corey and officials with his company shared details of a federal jury award of $17.5 million he received in a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta over an indoor advertising contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"It was like we've had a very high mountain to climb over the last eight years, but we had finally reached our destination where we intended to be -- to get justice," said Corey, a Rockdale County resident and head of his own company, Corey Airport Services.

Corey met with reporters at his company's offices in downtown Atlanta following Monday's announcement that a federal jury ruled in his favor in an 8-year-old lawsuit he filed against the city and airport.

Corey was upset in 2002 when the city awarded the advertising contract to Clear Channel Airports of Georgia. Clear Channel's minority partner, Barbara Fouch, was a friend of the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Fouch had held the contract since 1980 as a minority partner with different companies over the years. The city of Atlanta had extended the contract in 1993 and did not seek new Requests for Proposals until 2002. That year, when the contract was awarded again to Fouch, Corey felt he was not given fair consideration.

"The same people have had the airport advertising now since 1980. Until they put out a new RFP on a level playing field, and this is what the fight is all about, a level playing field for the regular people to compete against the royals," Corey said.

The verdict awarded Corey Airport Services $8.5 million in compensatory damages, to be paid in thirds by the city, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. and Fouch.

The jury also awarded Corey $9 million in punitive damages. Clear Channel was ordered to pay $8.5 million and Fouch $500,000, according to the Associated Press.

Attorneys for the city announced they would appeal the decision.

Corey, 78, said he had felt at times he would never live to see the outcome of the lawsuit. Despite being a successful businessman, Corey painted his court battle between his company and the city of Atlanta as a sort of David versus Goliath tale.

Along with Corey Companies in Atlanta, Corey has several real estate and business holdings in Rockdale County. He built his company owning several gas stations along Interstate 20 and developed Martha's Vineyard and Lost Forest subdivisions on Ga. Highway 20.

He noted that his company was represented by three attorneys who were "up against a half dozen of the biggest silk stocking attorneys in Georgia."

Diane McIver, president of Corey Companies, said the company spent between $3 million and $3.5 million on the court case. She said the message of the verdict was "loud and clear" regarding corruption at the Atlanta airport. She said "it was disheartening" to hear a report that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was moving forward to appeal.

Corey and Tex McIver, one of his attorneys in the lawsuit, also presented a copy of the city's concessions operating agreement that showed where Clear Channel agreed to pay 125 percent of the monthly fees and charges to the city of Atlanta if the contract was extended, as it was in 1993 and until the contract was bid out again in 2002.

Tex McIver, husband of Diane McIver, said based on that contract, Clear Channel owed the city of Atlanta $15.4 million, which according to testimony from the court case, had never been collected.

"I think that Billy's remarks here are that the city can certainly make that claim on Clear Channel," Tex McIver said. "In the judgment of many people there seems to be a very simple, easy way for the city to resolve itself in this case and go forward."