Prince Ordered by Judge to Pay Nearly $4 Million to Perfume Maker

Pop star sent "mixed messages" about whether he'd put his name on bottle of perfume and appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to promote it.
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A New York judge Friday ordered pop star Prince to pay $3.95 million to a perfume maker for failing to promote the 3121 line of scents.

Prince was sued by Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics in 2008 for failing to promote the perfume, which was supposedly inspired by his 2006 album 3121. The company said it spent millions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses in reliance upon Prince's commitment to promote, and when the matter went before a special referee, the estimation of actual damage was accepted. Now, a New York Supreme Court judge has confirmed the award.

Throughout the years, Prince has made a series of unique moves in the music industry, from the changing his name to the way he bundled the sale of albums with concert tickets.

On 3121, which became the first Prince album to debut atop the Billboard 200, the musician again made a highly interesting arrangement: Tying an album with a scent and clueing Universal Music Publishing Group into 50 percent of the perfume profits. Revelations made the licensing agreement with Universal, with an expectation that Prince would perform for them.

But something didn't smell right.

Revelations, represented by David Landau of Duane Morris, accused Prince of refusing media interviews and doing in-store events. "Since July 2007, despite repeated attempts by Revelations, there have been virtually no communications from anyone who could commit to or coordinate any promotional efforts by Prince," the lawsuit stated.

Minimum sales requirements weren't met, and the licensing agreement was canceled.

The dispute wound up in court, with the company's founder telling a special referee about the Prince statements he relied upon to make expenditures and with an expert testifying about the importance of a celebrity's active participation in his name fragrance.

The referee found that the evidence supported the company's claims of fraudulent inducement, fraud and tortious interference and awarded its out-of-pocket losses of $3,948,798.58 while denying lost profit damages and an award of punitive damages.

The dispute then went before a state judge, who heard arguments by Prince's lawyers that the plaintiffs hadn't showed that the representations and promises were the proximate cause of the expenses.

For example, Prince contended that on Dec. 2, 2006, the day after Revelations signed the licensing deal with Universal Music, he informed Revelations that he would not give interviews for the launch party nor would he provide a single photograph for the press release. Thus, Prince argued, the company couldn't have relied on these representations when deciding to spend millions.

But in the opinion Friday, the judge isn't buying it.

"The fraud committed by the Prince Defendants was not fully manifest on December 2, 2006, and the Prince Defendants continued to send mixed messages to Revelations regarding Prince's commitment to promoting the fragrance. For example, it was not until January 2007, when [Revelation's top executive] met again with Prince, that Prince informed him that he did not want his name to appear on the fragrance bottle or carton. Then, in late February 2007, Prince represented to Revelations that he would commit to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show prior to the launch of the fragrance. … However, this appearance never occurred."

Prince also wouldn't distribute samples of the perfume at concerts, as he promised. During this time, Universal is said to have made assurances, and while the decision says that Revelations never gave up on trying to persuade Prince to change his mind about such things as putting his image on the packaging, the company eventually seemed to hit the bottom of the bottle.

One bright side for Prince: The judge confirmed that punitive damages are not warranted because there wasn't any evidence that the artist acted with malicious intent.

Prince attorney Howard King has provided THR with the following statement:

"This was a default judgment, not based on any trial on the merits and without any ability of Prince to challenge the factual assertions of the plaintiff. The Judge’s refusal to set aside the default for good cause is currently being appealed. Every “fact” in the Judge’s opinion was an adoption of the assertions made by the plaintiff due to said default judgment and are vehemently denied by Prince."


Twitter: @eriqgardner