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Billy Joel Sues Former Manager for $90 Million

September 26, 1989|PAUL GREIN

Pop star Billy Joel on Monday filed a $90-million lawsuit against his former manager, Frank Weber, charging him with fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and federal racketeering statute violations.

The suit, filed in the Supreme Court for New York County in Manhattan, is believed to be the largest judgment a pop star has sought against a former manager. It calls for $30 million in compensatory damages and $60 million in punitive damages and also seeks the repayment of $15 million to $20 million in commissions that Weber is said to have received from 1980 until Aug. 30, when he was fired by Joel.

Weber's New York-based attorney, Anthony Conforti, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

In addition to their business relationship, Weber and Joel had close personal ties. Weber is the brother of Elizabeth Joel, Joel's ex-wife. Weber is also the godfather of Joel's 2-year-old daughter.

Among the defendants named in the lawsuit are Weber, his wife, Lucille, and his video company, Hicksville Productions.

Weber began working for Joel in 1979 when Elizabeth Joel was still managing the pop star. After the couple's separation and subsequent divorce, Weber began working for Joel directly.

Joel's attorney, Leonard M. Marks of Gold, Farrell & Marks in New York, said that Joel began a private investigation of Weber this summer. He retained attorney John Eastman to review his financial statements and in July, hired an independent accounting firm to do an investigative audit of Weber's company, Frank Management.

Among the allegations in the 83-page filing:

* $2.5 million in loans were given without Joel's knowledge or authorization to various horse-breeding and real-estate partnerships and other businesses controlled by Frank.

* Weber lost more than $10 million of Joel's money in investments of a highly speculative nature, many of which involved Weber's own companies.

* Weber double-billed Joel for his music videos, cheated him on expenses including travel and accounting fees and mortgaged Joel's copyrights for $15 million without disclosing it on Joel's financial statements.

* Weber caused phony financial statements to be issued to Joel, which painted an unrealistic picture of Joel's finances and the value of his investments and failed to reflect liabilities, guarantees, loans and mortgages.

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