Cher, Bono heirs sue Universal Music over royalties

Tue Jun 2, 2009 11:23pm EDT
 
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By Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Cher has sued Universal Music Group, claiming that the label's creative accounting has shortchanged her and the heirs of her late ex-husband, Sonny Bono, to the tune of $5 million.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims an audit of UMG's accounting to the singer-actress from 2000 to 2003 showed that UMG executives "engaged in wrongful tactics" designed to hide revenue from two hit compilation albums.

The five-count, 22-page complaint claims breach of two recording contracts Cher had with UMG predecessors, one with MCA division Kapp Records in 1972 and a 1987 deal with the David Geffen Company. Cher claims that those deals entitled her -- and, in the case of the 1972 deal, Bono -- to receive up to 50 percent of net royalties received by UMG.

The complaint alleges that UMG later made a deal with Warner Music U.K. to distribute a 1999 compilation called "Cher The Greatest Hits," then funneled the money through UMG's international arm to conceal the amount of royalties owed to Cher and the Bono heirs.

"Instead of reporting to and paying plaintiffs their share of the revenues generated by Warner U.K., UMG Recordings, in an egregious example of self-dealing, apparently inserted Universal International as a middleman in the transaction ... for the sole purpose of diverting money that rightfully belonged to plaintiffs to Universal International," the complaint says.

"The claims are meritless, and we are confident that we will prevail in court," said UMG spokesperson Peter Lofrumento.

IMPROPER ACCOUNTING ALLEGED

Cher also challenges accounting on a second compilation, 2002's "The Very Best of Cher." UMG allegedly allowed the album to be distributed by a division of Warner Music Group but accounted to Cher on a royalty basis as though UMG had sold the records itself, thus decreasing her share.   Continued...

 
<p>Singer Cher poses backstage at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>