A federal jury awarded Miami banker Alan Levan $10 million in a libel case against ABC, which broadcast a"20/20" show in 1991 about real estate transactions that allegedly bilked some investors.

Mr. Levan, chief executive of BFC FinancialCorp., charged that ABC and "20/20" show producer William Willson ruined his reputation. He sued ABC and Willson for $20 million.

"We believe the case was wrongly decided and plan to pursue our appeals rights vigorously," said Julie Hoover, a spokesman for the Walt Disney Co. television network. Mr. Levan couldn't be reached for comment.

The verdict comes while ABC is embroiled in another libel trial in Greensboro, North Carolina. In that case, Food Lion Inc. sued the network over the use of hidden cameras by the newsmagazine"PrimeTime Live" in a story on food handling.

Food Lion is seeking $2.5 billion in damages because of a steep decline in its shares and earnings in the months after the report was aired. ABC said it stands by its report.

In the Levan case, a U.S. District Court jury deliberated for 12 hours over four days before deciding to award Mr. Levan $8.5 million and BFC unit BankAtlantic $1 million. The jury ordered Willson to pay $500,000 to Mr. Levan, and $250,000 to BankAtlantic.

Mr. Levan was accused in the "20/20" segment of swapping real estate or oil holdings for corporate or bank bonds, which quickly lost most of their value. Mr. Levan won the jury award after agreeing to pay $8 million to settle a securities fraud lawsuit brought against him by some of the investors in the real estate partnerships.

Mr. Levan settled the lawsuit after a jury ordered him to pay damages of $8 million to the investors. The settlement vacated the ruling, which means it was removed from the official record and treated as if it never happened.

ABC's defense was dealt a blow last October when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the network's argument that it should have a right to intervene in the securities fraud lawsuit.

ABC argued that Mr. Levan agreed to the $8 million settlement only to erase the jury verdict, which would have kept Mr. Levan from winning his libel case against the network.

Mr. Levan agreed to settle only if the partners agreed to vacate the case.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.