That's no way to say goodbye to a fortune

Leonard Cohen claims his former lover stole millions from him. He's not the only star to allege betrayal, writes Brian Boyd

Leonard Cohen claims his former lover stole millions from him. He's not the only star to allege betrayal, writes Brian Boyd

The subject of betrayal has always been a source of lyrical inspiration for Leonard Cohen. He has touched on it many times over a three-and-a-half decade career that has seen him rival Bob Dylan for the title of "music's poet laureate". When Cohen sings about betrayal he does so in his trademark laconic and languorous monotone drawl. It's a unique vocal delivery, showcased to such magnificent effect on songs of timeless beauty such as So Long Marianne, The Sisters of Mercy and Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye.

He may become a bit more animated about how he treats the subject of betrayal in an upcoming court case. The 71-year-old Canadian singer has filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against his former manager and lover, Kelley Lynch, alleging that Lynch has stolen more than $5 million (€4.15 million) from his accounts. Cohen claims the theft began shortly after he entered a Zen Buddhist retreat south of Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. The lawsuit states that "through greed, self-dealing, concealment, knowing misrepresentation and reckless disregard for professional fiduciary duties" Kelley Lynch plundered his accounts.

It was only when Cohen left his Buddhist retreat to visit his bank last year that he discovered the alleged theft. His bank manager told him he had allowed Lynch's credit card to be paid directly from his bank account.


Cohen alleges that, over a number of years, somewhere in the region of €6.63 million has gone missing from his accounts. "I was devastated," the singer told a Canadian magazine. "You know, God gave me a strong inner core, so I wasn't shattered. But I was deeply concerned." Cohen sacked Lynch in October of last year. She denies the allegations set out in the lawsuit.

IN WHAT HAS now become a bit of a tangled web, Cohen is being sued by one of his financial advisers, Neal Greenberg, who claims that Cohen was made aware of his financial situation and attempted to recoup the monies by resorting to "conspiracy, extortion and defamation". Greenberg's lawsuit describes how the singer "engaged in consistent and prolific spending to support his extravagant celebrity lifestyle" and how Cohen would only discuss business matters while "he soaked in a bubble bath".

Cohen is the latest big-name music star to have allegedly lost millions to close personal advisers/managers (see panel). While he's not exactly broke, his financial situation has now prompted him into an unlikely bout of work. The eternal mysteries of Zen Buddhism will have to be put on the back boiler as Cohen plans to (out of necessity, he says) go on tour again for the first time in more than 12 years. Touring - with its upfront payment system - is always what music stars do when they suddenly discover themselves (relatively) broke. He will also have a new book of poetry available in all good book shops early next year and there are advanced plans for a new studio album. This time out, he might even be reduced to talking to the press in order to promote it.

THE CORE OF the problem here is the sheer amount of wealth amassed by hugely successful musical stars such as Cohen. The bigger the star, the flashier the financial adviser and the more extravagant the promises. They are fed the "trust me, I have your best interests at heart and I will secure the best returns on your investments" line.

There are some musicians who would still view any form of business transactions as slightly grubby and would prefer if all the money stuff was simply handed over to a "close and trusted adviser" so that they can get on with strumming their guitar while flicking through a rhyming dictionary.

It would not be seen as cool for a musician to attend business meetings or to show any enthusiasm for their portfolio of financial interests. It doesn't square with music's counter-cultural roots and it doesn't look good if you're the sort of musician who still labours under the illusion that your work is "of the street".

And anyway, "sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and accountancy" doesn't have the same ring to it.