Court Skins Seal Over Management Debt

A London High Court judge has ruled that Grammy-winning Seal must pay his former manager commissions on his early hits and pick up legal costs he’s incurred by bringing the action.

The singer/songwriter won’t know exactly what sums are involved until a future court hearing, but Justice Charles Gray has ordered him to make a couple of interim payments amounting to £675,000 (US$922,000).

The case centred on a 1995 agreement between Seal and John Wadlow, who was then a partner in a recording business called Beethoven Street Studios.

Ian Mill, Wadlow’s lawyer, told the June 22nd hearing that his client met Seal in 1987, when the undiscovered artist wasn’t attracting any interest from record companies or publishers.

They started working together, signed a formal agreement in 1990 and continued their partnership until ’95.

That March, they signed a settlement agreement that set out the terms under which their working relationship would be ended.

It’s that agreement, according to Mill, that entitles Wadlow to commission on the Seal and Seal II albums and single hits including “Crazy,” “Prayer For The Dying” and “Kiss From A Rose,” all of which were recorded before March ’95.

Justice Gray ruled that the 1995 agreement did give Wadlow the right to unpaid commissions resulting from those records, given that it superseded the 1990 contract that would have entitled him to a substantial slice of Seal’s future earnings.

Although he accepted that Seal, whose real name is Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, had made “an honest attempt on his part to recollect events which took place long ago,” Justice Gray rejected a counterclaim from the artist’s lawyers that argued that no commissions were owed on the first two albums under either agreement. And, even if they were, the contract would have amounted to “an unreasonable restraint of trade” and would therefore be “unenforceable.”

It was unclear at press time if the 43-year-old singer, who’s now married to German supermodel Heidi Klum and has just announced that they’re expecting their second child, is going to appeal the June 22nd verdict.

– John Gammon