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Don't Drink The 'Wahta'…Unless You're Gonna Pay

TORONTO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — On a blazing July day in 2003, the Rolling Stones rocked 450,000 concertgoers at Downsview Park for the SARStock concert. Now, seven years later, the concert is making headlines with a court ruling in favor of a spring water company after it was left high and dry by a major sports and entertainment business and a Toronto manager.

In a 3-0 decision Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered Molson Sport and Entertainment Inc. and concert promoter Johnathan Vrozos to pay $1.4 million in damages to the company, Wahta Natural Spring Water of Muskoka.

Sometimes described as a fixture on Toronto’s entertainment scene, Vrozos has operated such well-known venues as the Palais Royale ballroom and the Brunswick House tavern.

At the SARS concert, Vrozos violated in the most “reprehensible” way the confidence the First Nations company had placed in him, justices Eileen Gillese and Harry LaForme said in Friday’s decision according to the Toronto Star.

“It is clear that at every turn, that trust and confidence was thoroughly abused by Vrozos for his own personal gain in ways that were utterly dishonest and gratuitous,” the court said in ordering him to pay $765,366 plus $50,000 in punitive damages.

Wahta, a small bottling firm, had earned exclusive rights to sell bottled water at the SARStock concert in an effort to boost Canada's tourism industry after the outbreak of SARS.

The company hired refrigerated trailers to transport more than three million bottles to the park, only selling 250,000 bottles.

Unknown to the people at Wahta, Molson and Vrozos had separately entered into side deals with other vendors, who also paid for the right to sell water at the concert.

350,000 of the 600,000 bottles given away free at the park gates after a heat alert was declared by Emergency Medical Services, were Wahta bottles. Vrozos sold those bottles to Molson for $28,000, without reimbursing Wahta.

Adding injury to insult, as the Stones were packing up and the public was leaving, Vrozos went to a Wahta trailer and took $631,616 in cash, according to the Toronto Star.

“The weight of the money was so great that apparently the rear end of Vrozos’s car was barely off the ground as he drove away,” said justices Gillese and LaForme.

Confronted the next day, he returned about $100,000 in coins, but never repaid the balance, the court said.

Wahta also paid Vrozos $20,000 for use of a hangar to store its water and house its employees, but he never made any effort to rent the facility so the workers ended up sleeping in a field according to the Toronto Star.

Molson held all food, beverage and merchandising rights for the concert. Vrozos made a verbal deal with Molson’s vice-president that granted, for $120,000, exclusive rights to supply water at the concert.

Vrozos resold the rights to a man named Stephen Barber, who assigned them to Wahta.

Molson, meanwhile, which must pay $632,000 in damages, argued Wahta could have taken steps to minimize its financial losses.

Although Wahta sold its leftover water at a discount immediately after the concert, in part because the labels were damaged by condensation, Molson argued the company could have relabelled them for about 16 cents a case and resold them at market value.

But the appeal court said the relabelling costs were only one consideration. Wahta would have also had transportation and storage costs.

Molson said it lost $940,000 on the concert, according to the Toronto Star. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers