Dance star fights £10 m claim by ex-manager

 

Michael Flatley, the star of the spectacular Riverdance and Lord of the Dance shows, mounted a counter-offensive in the High Court in London yesterday against a damages claim for a reputed £10 million brought by his former manager.

After Mr Flatley had been portrayed in court last week as something of a prima donna, a colourful and at times tempestuous picture of his former manager, Mr John Reid, emerged yesterday.

Mr Reid, a former manager for Elton John, is claiming breach of contract after Mr Flatley sacked him soon after he had helped the ex-Riverdance star gain critical acclaim and success with the Lord of the Dance show.

For his part, Mr Flatley has lodged a counterclaim alleging deceit on Mr Reid's part and a second claim against his former solicitors for alleged professional negligence.

Opening his case, Mr Gordon Pollock QC, for Mr Flatley, told the court his client was pressurised into accepting a "manifestly disadvantageous" management contract with Mr Reid, who had threatened not to attend an important press conference in Dublin to promote the opening of the Lord of the Dance show if he did not agree to sign the contract.

Mr Pollock said the threat to boycott the press conference, in April 1996, was designed to "compel" Mr Flatley to agree to the outstanding terms of the contract.

The terms were then subject to negotiation by solicitors and related to a 20 per cent commission paid to Mr Reid on all the dancer's income, including investment income. Mr Pollock told Mr Justice Lightman that contrary to Mr Reid's evidence, which would suggest that Mr Flatley dismissed him when Lord of the Dance became a success, the dancer had been unhappy with his manager for some considerable time. He described an incident in January 1997 when Mr Flatley was preparing to perform the Lord of the Dance show at Wembley Arena, in London.

"Mr Reid is a violent man. He has a criminal record for violence. He forced his way into Mr Flatley's dressing-room . . . he became abusive, threatening. He threw faxes around, he kicked a wastepaper basket around the room, swore and shouted, then left. Mr Flatley was sufficiently upset that he vomited."

Mr Pollock also told the court that Mr Reid's company, John Reid Entertainment, had dishonestly obtained £50,000 from the British promoter, Mr Harvey Goldsmith, for his work in promoting the Irish and UK legs of the Lord of the Dance show.

Mr Reid's company had negotiated a fee of £200,000 for the work, which was paid by Mr Flatley, but had "put pressure" on Mr Goldsmith to hand over £50,000 of the fee.

Mr Reid had taken the view that he would lose out on commission payments in the early stages of the show when Mr Flatley would not receive any profits and therefore he should receive an extra payment. Mr Flatley is due to appear in the witness box later today.