Whitney Houston is being sued by her dad’s management company for $100 million. The diva’s alleged transgression? She failed to pay up for services that helped her out of numerous financial jams over the past two years.
The breach of contract suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court on August 30 by John Houston Entertainment, claims Whitney hired her father and the company’s president, Kevin Skinner, to help get her off the hook for her January 2000 pot bust in Hawaii, as well as negotiate her $100 million megadeal with Arista Records in 2001.
The complaint alleged that the 39-year-old songstress “never intended to pay” her papa and his partner, “fraudulently inducing them to produce various services.”
Such services involved ironing out her personal finances (i.e., making payments on her New Jersey mansion) and hooking her up with famed entertainment attorney, Allen Grubman, who managed to persuade Hawaiian authorities not to prosecute her.
“We weren’t her managers per se, at least not in name,” Skinner explains to MTV News. “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 [finances secure]. 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.”
Quite the contrary, according to Skinner, who says his firm was owed a nominal 20 percent commission, or a cool $20 million, for helping Houston snag the big bucks in her Arista pact. (Industry standard is typically 10 percent-20 percent commissions, with top acts like Houston regularly garnering the lower rate.)
“For anyone else, it could have been higher,” adds Skinner. “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.”
Whether or not Whitney’s 81-year-old dad supports the suit is up for dispute.
Sonia Johnson, a woman said to represent John Houston, tells MTV News that her father “feels terrible about having to go this route,” but he wants his money, even if it means taking his daughter to court.
“[Whitney] should know better, ” Johnson says. “Everybody feels badly about this.”
Johnson offered the following statement purportedly from Whitney’s dad: “I am stating for the record that I am 100 percent 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.”
Houston’s publicist, Nancy Seltzer, however, casts doubt on the statement.
“I spoke to John Houston about a week and a half ago, and I asked him how he wanted me to handle the calls and he gave me a quote,” Seltzer tells E! Online. “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, ‘Absolutely.'”
“It’s sad,” Seltzer adds. “It’s two people who love each other who seem to be dragged into this public situation, which is neither of their own doing.”
It’s been a tumultuous two years for Houston. Aside from her own marijuana arrest, her hubby, Bobby Brown, was jailed for 26 days in 2000 for violating his probation on a drunken driving charge.
And despite the big contract, Houston has been struggling to finish her long-delayed, still-untitled new album, which was expected to hit stores sometime in the fourth quarter.
Her new single “Whatchulookinat?”–in which she slams people who have hounded her and Brown–has flopped on the charts, failing to crack the Top 40.
But Seltzer refutes talk that all is not well in the world of Whitney. Houston, the publicist says, is hard at work in the studio and “looks and sounds fabulous.”
By Josh Grossberg