The Spice Girls did indeed mislead scooter manufacturer Aprilia in a sponsorship agreement made just prior to the departure of Geri Halliwell, according to a ruling handed down by a judge in London.The group is now reportedly liable for damages that could total over $1.5 million as a result of the ruling, with the exact amount of the award to be determined at a later hearing. Aprilia had claimed they didn't get their monies worth out of their agreement to sponsor the girls, due to the departure of Halliwell in May 1998 (see "Spice Girls Scooter Suit Underway"). The company alleged that it had designed an advertising campaign for its "Spice Sonic" scooter around the five-member group as a part of the deal and that the group was aware that "Ginger Spice" Geri would be leaving the act, a move which would put the campaign in jeopardy. High Court Mrs. Justice Arden reportedly agreed with Aprilia's contention
that the band had been guilty of "unintentional misrepresentation" and that they had known that Halliwell intended to leave the group prior to the sponsorship deal being finalized.Halliwell testified that she told the rest of the Spice Girls in early March 1998 that she was considering leaving at the end of their world tour in September; the Aprilia sponsorship agreement was set to end in March 1999. The former Spice Girl also said that during a group meeting in April 1998, a decision was made to delay releasing the news of her pending departure for "emotional" reasons. A photo shoot featuring all five girls on or around a Sonic Spice scooter took place just prior to Halliwell's abrupt resignation (see "NEWS FLASH: Geri Halliwell Quits Spice Girls"). Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton had testified that the Spice Girls had not believed that Halliwell would really leave the group. Aprilia had initially agreed to
pay the group a fee of $800,000 but withheld the final installment, prompting a claim by the Spice Girls that the manufacturer owed them close to $350,000.Justice Arden dismissed that claim, although according to a report from Reuters, the matter is to return to court for further consideration. A hearing will be scheduled later in the year to settle the financial aspects of the judgment and address the question of an appeal.