Whitney Houston is being sued for $100 million by her father’s company, and it’s not clear whose side the elder Houston is taking.
John Houston Entertainment, which filed the breach of contract lawsuit August 30 in New Jersey Superior Court, accuses the singer of never paying up for services rendered when the company acted on her behalf in a managerial capacity. But the question remains — which side is Whitney’s father on? Both say theirs.
Though John Houston himself isn’t named in the suit, John Houston Entertainment President Kevin Skinner says the two of them are the plaintiffs. According to the lawsuit, the singer hired her father and his business partner in 2000 to represent her in a number of personal and professional matters, including helping her sort out her legal entanglements involved in her drug bust in Hawaii in January 2000 when a search of her bag turned up more than 15 grams of marijuana (see “Whitney Houston Charged In Pot Bust” ).
The suit claims that Whitney’s father and Skinner dismissed her previous attorney and hired new ones, who then convinced prosecutors not to file charges (see “Whitney Houston Pot Charge Dropped” ). The suit also claims that they helped her ink a long-term deal with Arista Records last summer, which secured the singer a $100 million contract.
“We weren’t her managers per se,” Skinner said, “at least not in name. But we were in effect. She had no management at that time, and we masterminded the whole situation. All of the parties involved, we selected. And we did whatever it took to get her [financially solvent]. It took her five years to run through her money, and it took us five weeks to get it back. But we didn’t do it for free.”
Nor did they do it for cheap. Skinner — who described Whitney as being “like a sister” to him — said that John Houston Entertainment’s take is 20 percent. The industry standard, he admitted, fluctuates between 10 and 20 percent, with established acts like Houston typically paying the lower rate. Skinner said that considering the circumstances, Houston got a good rate.
“For anyone else, it could have been higher,” he said. “And she was in a crisis. We could have named our price. But she’s his daughter. She would have had no publicists, no accountants, no lawyers, no house. She would be bankrupt.”
So why sue for $100 million and not $10 million or $20 million? Skinner admitted that the amount was inflated because he anticipates the court will knock down whatever amount they ask for if a judgment is awarded in their favor.
And, Skinner said, Whitney’s father is behind the suit, because he, too, wants to be paid. According to spokeswoman Sonia Johnson, who said she represents John Houston, a statement he provided reads, “I am stating for the record that I am 100% behind the lawsuit against my daughter Whitney and am ashamed at my daughter’s staff … because they want to weasel out of paying my company … I will not rest until this is over, and I plan to see it through to the end.”
“John Houston feels terrible about having got to go this route,” Johnson said. “[Whitney] should know better than this. Everybody feels badly about this.”
However, longtime Whitney Houston rep Nancy Seltzer disputes that the statement is from the singer’s father. She said that she’s been in contact with John Houston and that his statements to her contradict the statement released.
“When I spoke to John a week and a half ago,” Seltzer said, “he said, ’It’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. I couldn’t do anything like that, and I didn’t.’ I asked him if he wanted that to be his statement, and he said yes.
“It’s sad,” Seltzer added. “It’s two people who love each other who seem to be dragged into this public situation, which is neither of their own doing.”