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What started as a legal war between Steven Tyler‘s former management company and his lawyer has grown into a bigger turf war that has other musicians taking sides.
In October, Kovac Media Group alleged in a lawsuit that attorney Dina LaPolt had cost Tyler a $6 million-$8 million deal after she supposedly poisoned the negotiations for Tyler to return as judge on Fox’s American Idol. The lawsuit claimed that LaPolt was so disastrous in deal negotiations that Tyler was offered no raise, which prompted him to exit the program.
After filing the lawsuit, Kovac Media Group, run by Allen Kovac, added new claims, asserting that in retaliation for the lawsuit, LaPolt has been “conspiring” to “set up a competing management company” to steal away a “world-famous rock band” that Kovac has repped for 15 years.
That band is Motley Crue, and on Monday, its members made its objections to Kovac’s claims very loud and clear. Declarations by Crue guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee were filed along with new court papers by LaPolt that urge a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to reject the lawsuit in accordance with California’s anti-SLAPP statute.
It’s not uncommon for attorneys and managers to share many big-name clients. After all, reps in the industry often pick up their clients through referral. As this lawsuit illustrates, there are ways this can become a major source of conflict should controversy arise.
So it goes for Tyler, who has chosen to stick by his lawyer’s side.
In a declaration in December, Tyler said about his former manager: “It is an understatement to say that I was very unhappy with the services and conduct of Allen Kovac. Among other things, he was disrespectful and rude to my business associates, insulted and verbally abused my fiancee, my lawyer, my family, my assistants and my accountants.”
On Monday, Mars and Lee followed Tyler in voicing displeasure with Kovac and others who have been taking the manager’s side.
According to Mars’ declaration, he first learned of what had happened on Oct. 15, when he got an e-mail from LaPolt describing the dispute and stating that he should get an independent attorney if he was concerned. Mars says he was “completely shocked and mad that Motley Crue’s manager had sued our lawyer. I trust Dina implicitly, to the point that she is my trustee if I die or become disabled.”
A few hours after getting the e-mail, he says he was informed that Pam Malek, the band’s business manager, had told one of Kovac’s attorneys to draw up documents giving Kovac $200,000 of Motley Crue money. According to Mars, the money was supposed to repay a personal loan that Kovac had given to the band’s singer Vince Neil (no longer a shareholder in the band), but Mars said that he never voted for that to happen.
“Once I saw Pam Malek’s e-mail, I got very concerned about her ability to be unbiased and act in my best interests,” says Mars. “Because Pam is also the business manager for 11-7 Recording Corp. (one of Allen Kovac’s companies) and represents many of Allen Kovac’s clients, I felt she was controlled by him and would do whatever he demanded, whether or not it was in my best interests.”
Eventually, Malek was terminated, and Mars hired new representatives. Mars calls Kovac’s assertion that LaPolt was interfering and guiding him to retain new business reps to be “false and ridiculous” and that “any strain between Motley Crue and Allen Kovac is caused by Allen Kovac’s actions.”
Lee echoes that same sentiment, saying that he is also upset that Kovac has added claims against the band’s lawyer, LaPolt. Lee is angry that he now has to give a deposition and feels like he was entitled to a better heads up about this. “Obviously, I would have the right to know that they were having problems performing under our management agreement,” he says.
Meanwhile, LaPolt’s attempts to kill the lawsuit continue in other ways. In particular, the defendant is relying upon California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which protects against litigation that arises from First Amendment activity — in this case, what LaPolt alleges to be her statements on the eve of litigation about Tyler’s American Idol negotiations and LaPolt’s conduct as an attorney both before and after the filing of the lawsuit.
To counter this, Kovac and his attorney Skip Miller have asserted that that they have a right to bring claims because of the relationship that existed between the parties. Namely, that in some capacity, LaPolt previously was acting as the plaintiffs’ lawyer.
LaPolt’s attorneys, Christine Lepera and Bradley Mullins at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, dispute there was any such evidence that would suggest such a relationship.
“There is admittedly no retainer agreement, no e-mails discussing any attorney-client relationship and not a single document listing LaPolt as counsel for the sophisticated (Kovac) companies, TSE and 11-7.”
LaPolt’s lawyers tell The Hollywood Reporter that the new filings “show that there is no basis for any of Allen Kovac’s companies’ claims against [LaPolt] and her firm. As Ms. LaPolt’s motion papers demonstrate, this is not a case about an attorney’s ethical duties, as LaPolt was not a lawyer for Allen Kovac’s companies, and Plaintiffs are unable to demonstrate otherwise.”
Contacted for comment, Miller referred to his legal papers that his own side had submitted at the end of last month in opposition to the defendants’ attempts to strike the complaint.
Those papers lay out how LaPolt allegedly “committed one of the most egregious acts that a lawyer can commit: she disclosed attorney-client information and violated her duty of loyalty…” The papers also say that LaPolt was representing Tenth Street Entertainment and after hearing confidential information, that the attorney used it to “curry favor with American Idol producers so that they would refer the legal representation of other artists to LaPolt.”
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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