Virgin, EMI face poaching suit

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Chicago independent label Victory Records has sued Virgin Records and its parent EMI Music North America, claiming the majors attempted to poach its top-selling act Hawthorne Heights.

The suit, filed Thursday in Chicago federal court, charges Virgin and EMI with tortious interference with contractual relations. Victory is seeking a minimum of $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Victory's action is a sequel of sorts -- but not an answer, because the group is not a defendant -- to a federal suit filed by Hawthorne Heights in the same court in August against the label and its owner Tony Brummel (HR 8/8). In its suit, the band sought damages and a rescission of its contract, alleging that the indie label had shortchanged it and harmed its reputation.

Hawthorne Heights is Victory's biggest act; in March, its second album "If Only You Were Lonely," hit the top five in the national album charts.

Victory's suit alleges that Virgin president Jason Flom and head of business affairs Jason Kempler induced Hawthorne Heights to declare itself free of its contractual obligations to Victory. According to the action, Victory learned Sept. 7 from Flom and EMI Music North America chairman and CEO David Munns and chief operating officer Ivan Gavin that the band had signed a contract with EMI and Virgin.

Victory maintains that owing to the October dismissal of certain counts in Hawthorne Heights' suit, the band's contract with the indie, which calls for delivery of two more albums, remains in force.

An EMI spokeswoman said the company had not seen the suit and declined comment on pending litigation, but added, "We're confident there is no basis for a suit."
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