LOS ANGELES (CN) – Sony Music Entertainment is withholding royalties due on “Thriller” and other pre-1983 releases from Michael Jackson’s ex-manager, the man claims in court.
In a breach of contract complaint against Sony, 75-year-old Richard Arons says he depends on the royalties to support himself.
His claims are rooted in a 1972 management agreement Arons allegedly signed with The Jackson 5 after becoming their manager, along with Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson.
Arons says the management agreement split Joe and Arons’ fees down the middle for a 7.5 percent cut each way.
Though Arons says he was Jackson 5’s attorney when the group debuted in 1969, and “a confidante and valued member” of the family, a series of disputes allegedly soured the relationship.
Arons says he settled with Jackson three times. Though 1978 and 1981 settlements included terms that cut compensation for Arons, the former manager insists that he kept his 7.5 percent share of royalties intact.
Jackson informed his record company at that time, CBS Records, to honor the deal, according to the complaint.
But close to a decade later, Jackson, for “unknown reasons,” refused to pay Arons royalties, the lawsuit continues.
That led to a final 1991 settlement preserving Arons’ right to royalties “in perpetuity,” according to the complaint.
Sony acquired CBS in 1987 and continued to pay Arons royalties, though “not in an amount consistent with the agreements,” he adds.
In late 2011, more than two years after Jackson’s death, Arons allegedly reminded Sony that he was owed royalties for the albums “The Jacksons,” “The Jacksons Live,” “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” and all Jackson albums prior to March 12, 1983.
“In March of 2012, Andrew Ross of Sony Music agreed to review the unpaid/underpaid royalties issue,” the 11-page complaint states. “Sometime shortly thereafter, Arons received a new royalty statement which did not accurately reflect the royalty payments to which he was entitled.”
Arons says he pointed out the “error,” and that Ross promised to talk to Sony’s royalty department. The corporation nevertheless “failed to address the issue further,” according to the complaint.
Christopher Grivakes with Affeld Grivakes Zucker represents Arons. He seeks $10 million in damages.
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