Music Manager Accused of Poaching Singer
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A talent agency says in court that it nurtured and spent thousands of dollars promoting a singer-songwriter but has been boxed out of the rights to her career.
John Sarris, a principal of Florida-based HighJac Productions, and his wife, Kelly Newton, allegedly discovered Audrianna Cole in 2009 and negotiated a three-way deal over the singer's career with Los Angeles music executive Chris Borchetta.
HighJAC says Borchetta's brother, Scott Borchetta, had discovered country crossover star Taylor Swift.
Neither Sarris, Newton nor Scott Borchetta are parties to the complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"Defendant fraudulently promised that any money plaintiff would contribute to the project would be reimbursed on 'first in first out basis' once any money came in or when defendant secured investors or major record or publishing companies," the complaint states.
Chris Borchetta then signed Cole to a short-term, five-song recording contract, using the same "unrepentant and unashamed" misrepresentations to get her to put pen to paper," HighJAC says.
Once he had snagged Cole, Borchetta allegedly refused to confirm the deal he had made with Sarris in writing.
"Not coincidentally, defendant's refusal to commit formally in writing to what he had agreed and instead insisting on changing the terms of the agreement coincided with when defendant asserted a joint venture deal was imminent with the person who had discovered [the rock band] 'The Killers,'" the complaint says. "In addition, such change of initial agreement was concomitant with defendant excluding Mr. John Sarris and Mrs. Newton from pertinent conversations and correspondence with the person the alleged joint venture deal was supposed to be had."
Though Sarris invested thousands of dollars in Cole, Borchetta asked Cole to sign an exclusive recording contract through his company New School Entertainment, "fraudulently excluding" HighJAC, the complaint states.
Borchetta allegedly falsely stated that he intended to give HighJAC the same publishing rights as New School, so Sarris would hand over $6,000 in advances and attorneys' fees for the exclusive agreement with Cole.
HighJAC says the exclusive recording agreement obligates it to pay Cole a $10,000 advance after delivery of her second album, $75,000 if she makes a third album, $100,000 for a fourth and $150,000 for her fifth.
"Defendant, also, misrepresented to plaintiff that a major joint venture deal with the person who had discovered 'The Killers' was imminent and Mr. John Sarris would be able to receive back all the money he had already spent amounting to thousands of dollars," the complaint states. "This is partly how defendant succeeded in fraudulently inducing the plaintiff to pay for important agreements."
Borchetta's "blatant fraud" allegedly cost HighJAC at least $100,000, while Borchetta "did not spend a dime of his own money."
Among other things, HighJAC says it invested $1,000 in Cole's travel expenses. Is also claims to have paid $3,500 for a master recording of Cole's song "Lovely" after Borchetta allegedly stated that Sony wanted to place the song in the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, "The Back Up Plan." That deal never materialized.
Since Borchetta left the project, Cole has "thrived," signing to (nonparty) Universal Publishing Group, and securing a sponsorship deal with Gibson Guitars and others, according to the complaint.
Borchetta has allegedly threatened legal action against Universal and claimed an interest in the exclusive rights to Cole's songs.
Because of that dispute, Universal has refused to pay HighJAC a $50,000 advance and travel costs, the lawsuit states.
HighJAC seeks damages of $150,000 and $45,000 in interest, alleging rescission, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and other charges.
It also wants the court to rescind the parties' exclusive recording agreement.
The agency is represented by Pal Lengyel with Law Advocate Group of Beverly Hills.