Judge Tosses Black Promoters’ Suit

After six years of legal wrangling, a U.S. District Court Judge has ruled in favor of the remaining agents and promoters sued in 1998 by four African-American concert promoters who claimed they were victims of a vast conspiracy to prevent black promoters from doing business.

Judge Robert P. Patterson granted summary judgment January 4th to the remaining defendants in the suit: William Morris Agency, Creative Artists Agency, Renaissance Entertainment and indie promoters Jam Productions Ltd. and Beaver Productions.

The $700 million lawsuit originally named 34 agencies and promoters when it was filed in November 1998 by Rowe Entertainment (Leonard Rowe), Sun Song Productions, (Jesse Boseman), Summitt Management (Fred Jones, Jr.) and Lee King Productions (Lee King).

Rowe, who often spoke for the plaintiffs, was unavailable for comment at press time.

In the end, Judge Patterson ruled the plaintiffs failed to present evidence to support their claims of antitrust and civil rights violations, or evidence of conspiracy in restraint of trade. Nor did they provide evidence of injury resulting from the alleged conspiracy, the judge wrote in his 176-page summary judgment.

“We feel this summary judgment represents a complete vindication of our business practices,” CAA spokeswoman Wendy Smith told Pollstar. “It is clear that the court thoroughly analyzed allegations of antitrust and discrimination, and ruled them to be totally without merit. We stuck with this for six years because we knew that we did absolutely nothing wrong.”

The suit was marked by Black Promoters Association pickets of William Morris and CAA offices in Beverly Hills, Calif., a demonstration in front of CCE’s New York City offices as well as a boycott threat against the conglom, and leafleting during the 1999 Concert Industry Consortium in Los Angeles.

Most of the original 34 defendants, including Clear Channel Entertainment, The Howard Rose Agency, Agency For The Performing Arts, and Variety Artists International, settled out of court with the plaintiffs, all members of the BPA though the organization itself was not a party to the suit.

Jam Productions’ Jerry Mickelson also said he felt vindicated by the judge’s ruling.

“There were three agencies and two promoters that were still in the lawsuit. We felt we did nothing wrong and I assume the other defendants felt they did nothing wrong,” Mickelson told Pollstar after the ruling was handed down.

“It’s clear to us that there was no case here. There was no merit to the allegations brought by the plaintiffs. That’s what the judge ruled and that’s exactly it.”

Mickelson said his company spent “in the mid-six figures” in legal fees to date to get the summary judgment, and that figure may go higher as the plaintiffs have not ruled out an appeal.