Prince cancelled concert on whim, claims promoter


MUSIC PROMOTER Denis Desmond has told the Commercial Court he has never been given a reason why a concert by pop superstar Prince at Croke Park in the summer of 2008 was cancelled.

It seemed to have been done “on a whim”, he added.

Mr Desmond was giving evidence in the action by his company, MCD Productions, against the singer and his alleged agents for €1.7 million damages over the cancellation of the June 16th, 2008, concert.

The case opened yesterday before Mr Justice Peter Kelly who was told Prince would not be giving evidence in the case.

Paul Sreenan SC, for the artist, said Prince and his personal assistant Ruth Arzate had supplied witness statements but would not be giving evidence.

The action is against Price Rogers Nelson and his alleged agents, William Morris Endeavour Entertainment LLC (WMEE), Beverly Hills, California. WMEE was joined by MCD to the case after Prince alleged it had no authority to bind him to the concert but they have rejected those claims.

WMEE, one of the world’s largest entertainment managements companies, pleads its servants or agents engaged in negotiations with MCD regarding a concert to be performed by Prince in Dublin and acted at all times as agents for Prince under an agreement of August 2005, with express authority to negotiate on Prince’s behalf for the purpose of securing bookings.

On February 26th, 2008, WMEE claims it entered into a contract with MCD for Prince to perform at Croke Park on June 16th, 2008, for “an artists’ guaranteed fee of three million dollars”. MCD transferred $1.5 million, half the agreed fee, to an account of William Morris, it is pleaded.

WMEE also admits, that about June 6th, 2008, MCD was notified by it that Prince wished to cancel the concert. WMEE alleges Prince refused to travel to Dublin and gave “no reason of substance” to it for the cancellation.

WMEE claims the decision to cancel was outside its control and it had returned $1.5 million to MCD. The company denies negligence, breach of duty or misrepresentation.

Mr Desmond told Maurice Collins SC, for MCD, that he had had previous dealings with WMEE and had a good relationship with it. He had entered into negotiations with WMEE in 2007 and early 2008 to bring Prince to Ireland.

The artist had played 21 concerts in London in 2007 and while efforts to bring him to Ireland did not work out, he later confirmed Prince for Croke Park in June 2008. The concert would not have been announced and tickets would not have gone on sale had he not received WMEE’s confirmation in February 2008.

He said “rumblings” about the concert being cancelled came very late and only arose because his production staff could not get any information from Prince’s production staff.

There was no indication before June 6th, 2008, that the concert would be cancelled, but his side knew something was up when, three weeks before the show, the required production information was not forthcoming.

Promoters could take out cancellation insurance and dates could be rescheduled in the event of a performer being genuinely ill but, in this case, there was no reason given for the cancellation, he said.

Asked if he now knew why the concert was cancelled, he said he did not, it seemed to be “on a whim”.

There was damaging media speculation at the time that MCD had cancelled due to poor ticket sales but that was not the case as more than 55,000 tickets had been sold, he said. Prince had also been told he could earn $500,000 extra for the show on the basis of ticket sales, Mr Desmond added.

As the date drew closer and concerns arose, MCD also offered to provide lighting and production services and the artist was told he would simply have “to arrive with his band”.