MANHATTAN (CN) – Reeling from losing its biggest client, an entertainment management firm poached American Idol winner Phillip Phillips from those who made him a “superstar,” the agents claim in court.
In a 30-page complaint filed in New York Supreme Court on Monday, Phillips’ former reps, 19 Entertainment, describe the singer’s humble beginnings, and the life-altering affect of his winning during Idol’s 11th season in 2012.
“Prior to participating in and ultimately winning American Idol, Phillips resided in Leesburg, Georgia, attended Albany Technical College with a major Industrial Systems Technology … and worked at his family’s pawn shop,” the complaint says. “In addition to his interest and skills in music, Phillips has publicly noted his talent in corn pollination.”
19 Entertainment develops and manages each season’s winner, and certain
contestants, of American Idol, and over the years, it says, it launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, and others.
“Phillips’ meteoric rise to stardom exemplifies the tremendous and indispensable
benefits that 19 Entertainment has provided to its American Idol winners,” the complaint says. “Through the American Idol platform and 19 Entertainment’s tireless efforts, Phillips became an instant sensation, selling over 5 million copies of his first single, “Home,” after 19 Entertainment developed an opportunity with NBC to feature the recording during its coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics.”
But it wasn’t always easy, the plaintiff says. From the beginning Phillips insisted on having creative control, demanding that he either write or co-write every song on his second album, “despite the enormous value and positive impact of 19 Entertainment’s song recommendations on the first album.”
19 Entertainment says during the recording of that second album, it advised Phillips to record a song called “Compass” that it felt was “true to his artistry and sound,” but he refused.
The song subsequently went on to become a hit for Lady Antebellum.
Despite this and other incidents, the agency says it “diligently promoted and marketed Phillips’ upcoming releases.”
It also flew his family to Los Angeles when he had kidney surgery, the complaint says.
The firm says it also helped him land several other gigs, including performances at the Billboard Music Awards, Conan, Ellen, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The View.
“Phillips’ success did not go unnoticed by competing management companies,
including Defendants,” 19 Entertainment says.
The turning point in the relationship came after Phillips was picked to open for John Mayer on the singer/guitarist’s “Born and Raised” world tour in 2012.
That’s when Phillips met Mayer’s then agent, defendant Michael McDonald of Mick Management.
“Defendants knew that Phillips had an exclusive contractual arrangement with 19 Entertainment, but actively pursued Phillips whenever possible-including during
Phillips’ world tour with Defendants’ most successful artist-and sought to pressure Phillips into breaking off relations with 19 Entertainment and enlisting Defendants’ services instead,” the complaint says.
During the tour, Mayer fired Mick Management. From that moment on, “Defendants doubled-down on pilfering Phillips from 19 Entertainment,” the court documents say.
The gambit worked.
“After Defendants’ repeated interactions with Phillips, Phillips began airing supposed grievances about 19 Entertainment’s management of his career. Even after 19 Entertainment addressed the concerns Phillips identified, Phillips purported to declare a unilateral and immediate termination of the Agreement,” the complaint says.
19 Entertainment fought back, reiterating the continuing validity and force of its contractual relationship with Phillips. The singer responded by filing an action with the California Labor Commissioner, seeking to have the agreement declared
null and void.
That proceeding is in its very early stages, the complaint says.
Phillips claimed he didn’t get good management, but the agency says it worked “tirelessly” to make him a star and brought him at least $5 million.
10 Entertainment seeks compensatory damages of at least $2 million and punitive damages to be determined by the court.
The agency is represented by Orin Snyder with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York.
Representatives with Mick Management declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.
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