Holy Hootie! $150M Suit!
Grammy Award-winning pop group Hootie and the Blowfish have been hit with a $150-million lawsuit filed by their original manager. Henry Neuman's suit alleges he was intentionally shut out when the band signed to Atlantic Records and went on to make Cracked Rear View, which has sold more than 14 million copies. The South Carolina quartet won the best new artist Grammy earlier this year, and their current CD, Fairweather Johnson, has sold three million copies.
The lawsuit asserts breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation. In addition to naming the members of Hootie and the Blowfish - Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Mark Bryan and James Sonefeld - as defendants, current band manager Rusty Harmon and lawyer Richard Gusler are also named. Harmon and Gusler did not return telephone calls seeking comment. The filing of the lawsuit in New York follows almost a year of negotiations with the band in which Neuman attempted to resolve the dispute. Even the filing of the lawsuit on May 3 was kept quiet until late last week, when the members of the band were served with the court papers. An Aug. 3 hearing has been set. The lawsuit stems from a contract executed on May 24, 1991, with Neuman's Waterfront Management banner, which gave him rights to shop the band and share "15% of all funds and royalties from any recording deal entered into" by Hootie.
Neuman attracted the interest of JRS Records, a label then based in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills, and MCA-backed Gasoline Alley Records. JRS began negotiating with Neuman in August 1991, and he landed a recording deal for the band shortly thereafter followed by a three-year management contract effective Sept. 13, 1991. But "administrative and financing issues at JRS," according to the lawsuit, put the recording deal on hold in 1992. The lawsuit notes that even though the recording deal may have been terminated, the management contract was still in "full force and effect." Neuman is seeking $50 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages from the defendants.