A little over a month after he was dropped from R. Kelly's Double Up tour, Ne-Yo is fighting back with a lawsuit asking that he be paid even though he didn't perform the whole tour. Ne-Yo is blaming an unnamed Kelly rep for allegedly instigating his dismissal in the first place — which Kelly's rep calls "just plain silly."
The R&B singer/songwriter filed suit in Los Angeles on Monday against the promoter of the tour, Rowe Entertainment, claiming breach of contract, violation of the right of publicity and unfair business practices for his termination from the tour after only two performances. Since Ne-Yo spent money preparing for the tour and turned down other touring and performance opportunities, he's asking that he be paid the remainder of the money he says he was guaranteed — in excess of $735,000.
Ne-Yo claims in the suit that he was promised a fee of $785,000 in the form of an oral agreement, which was initially brokered in or around late September/ early October and then expanded upon in mid-October. The guarantee of $785,000 was based on an agreement to open up a minimum of 25 concerts, beginning November 14. If the number of concerts were to increase, the guaranteed payment would increase accordingly. (It comes out to $31,400 per performance.)
The problem is that the oral agreement was not formalized in writing by the time the tour started, since, according to Ne-Yo and his representatives, they were waiting on insurance information before signing. The lack of a fully executed contract was the reason cited by promoter Leonard Rowe when he announced Ne-Yo's removal from the tour in late November.
"It was decided that in the best interest of all involved, since I was unable to receive the fully executed contract, I had no other alternative but to release Ne-Yo from the tour," Rowe said at the time. "From a business perspective, it would have been extremely difficult for me to continue under this cloud of uncertainty."
Ne-Yo claims in the suit, however, that the lack of signatures shouldn't have been an issue because all the material terms were agreed upon orally. "The parties understood that the oral agreement was binding and would be binding even if a formal written agreement was never executed," the lawsuit reads. Consequently, Ne-Yo says, both sides proceeded as if he were on the tour. He hired musicians, dancers, security and other personnel, conducted rehearsals and did promotions, while Lowe used his name, voice and likeness for print, radio and television ads to promote the tour.
Not only does Ne-Yo believe his addition to the Double Up tour contributed to "sales of a substantial number of tickets," but he also believes his presence on the tour started to overshadow that of R. Kelly, the headlining act, citing audience and critical reaction being "at least as positive" if not more than the reaction to R. Kelly. Because of that favorable reaction, Ne-Yo claims "an unknown representative" of R. Kelly "urged" his termination so he wouldn't take attention away from the headliner, and that Rowe Entertainment complied "without warning and without any valid basis to do so."
Leonard Rowe, however, said the decision was "solely" his and countered that "R. Kelly exerted no influence" on that decision — a claim Kelly's rep backed up.
"The idea that R. Kelly had anything to do with Ne-Yo being dropped from the Double Up tour is just plain silly," Kelly's rep Allan Mayer told MTV News. "As we said at the time, Ne-Yo was dropped because of a contractual dispute with the tour promoter, and in fact Ne-Yo is not suing Kelly but only the promoter. Ne-Yo may think blaming the situation on R. Kelly will improve his chances of collecting from the promoter, but if he does, he is sadly mistaken. Anyone remotely familiar with R. Kelly knows he is confident enough in his own abilities to be happy to share the stage with enormously talented people — the more talented, the better."
Ne-Yo's rep and attorney did not comment by press time.
Kelly's tour, which runs through mid-January, suffered another setback last month when a Chicago judge ordered that the January 13 concert in Hampton, Virginia, be canceled so that the singer doesn't miss his next court appearance in his child-pornography case, on January 14.
[This story was originally published at 3:03 p.m. ET on 01.02.08]