By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Music producer Quincy Jones sued Michael Jackson’s estate on Friday, seeking millions of dollars in royalties generated from some of the star’s biggest hits after the King of Pop’s death.
Jones, who worked on Jackson’s three biggest solo albums – “Off the Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” – also named Sony Music Entertainment, the parent company of Jackson’s longtime label, Epic Records, in the breach-of-contract complaint.
Jones accused the music giant and the song company controlled by Jackson’s estate, MJJ Productions, of denying him royalties, fees and profit-sharing as they exploited Jackson’s work through the posthumous concert film “This Is It”.
His claim, brought in Los Angeles Superior Court, also mentioned two Cirque du Soleil productions based on Jackson’s music, accompanying soundtracks and the 25th anniversary edition of “Bad”.
According to the lawsuit, master recordings of songs Jones produced were remixed and edited to deprive the 27-time Grammy-winning producer of compensation he was entitled to under agreements with Jackson dating back to the 1970s and ’80s.
Jackson died in 2009 aged 50 in Los Angeles from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, which he was taking as a sleep aid as he was preparing for series of comeback concerts.
The movie “This Is It,” filmed during rehearsals for those concerts, generated more than $260 million at the box office worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing concert films ever.
The lawsuit seeks at least $20 million in damages – $10 million for each of the two master contracts that Jones claims were breached in various ways under secret agreements between MJJ Productions and Sony after Jackson died.
“Quincy has been frustrated with these matters for a number of years, felt he was not making any progress and needed to take more formal action,” Jones’ lawyer, Henry Gradstein, told The Hollywood Reporter, which posted a copy of the suit online.
In a statement issued to the website TMZ.com, Howard Weitzman, a lawyer for the Jackson estate, said: “The estate of Michael Jackson was saddened to learn that Quincy Jones has filed a lawsuit seeking money from Michael’s estate. To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Jones has been appropriately compensated over approximately 35 years for his work with Michael.”
There was no immediate comment from Sony.
Jones, 80, who has worked with such greats as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, first collaborated with Jackson as one of the composers for the 1978 film adaptation of the musical “The Wiz,” which starred Jackson as the Scarecrow.
He went on to produce Jackson’s blockbuster solo albums, “Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad” – released in 1979, 1982 and 1987, respectively. They ranked among the most commercially successful albums of their time.
“Thriller” alone sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with seven of its nine tracks reaching the top 10, according to AllMusic.com.