Heafield Sues Promoter For $14 Million

The South African Celine Dion tour saga has taken a couple of twists, with Duncan Heafield of Kusasa suing fellow promoter Hazel Feldman for about $14 million.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg Coca-Cola Dome has banned Ticketconnection because it won’t reimburse fans who bought tickets for Heafield’s canceled Josh Groban shows.

Just after Groban canceled at the end of March, The Dome banned Heafield, saying it feels he’s letting down the South African music industry.

"I will be issuing a statement once my lawyers have seen the document. I haven’t seen it yet," Feldman told Pollstar within hours of Heafield’s writ being served at her Johannesburg office.

South Africa’s News24.com reported that Heafield is claiming Feldman libeled him, breached a contract and confidentiality, and cost him about $6 million in lost revenues.

Feldman says Heafield owes money all around the world and is trying to make her the "scapegoat for all his misfortune," referring to the ever-growing number of South African businesses bringing lawsuits against the Kusasa chief.

"I can already tell you that this is complete and utter nonsense," she said from Cape Town, where her production of "Chicago" is on a run.

She said the suits against her are a tit-for-tat reaction from Heafield, whom she says she took to court to get the Rand 10.5 million ($1.35 million) he allegedly owed her from an earlier agreement on the Dion shows.

The Coca-Cola Dome issued a statement April 2 criticising Ticketconnection’s refusal to refund fans for the canceled Groban shows, a week after venue managing director Carol Weaving attracted national TV coverage for saying promoters like Heafield need to be weeded out.

She said there comes a time when you have to put your foot down and say enough is enough because "these bad promoters" negatively affect the entire industry.

The Johannesburg venue has now told Ticketconnection "the refunding of tickets is the responsibility of the ticketing agent" and that it won’t be allowed to sell tickets for future Dome events until it’s fulfilled its obligations.

"Should an event be canceled for whatever reason, the patron should be the first to be reimbursed," the venue’s statement read.

The ticketing company, which had the exclusive on Dion and Groban tickets, is telling fans to go directly to Heafield for refunds.

"The guarantee we were given by the promoter to advance funds to this promoter was that if the event was compromised, the funds already paid to Josh Groban would be returned to us to enable us to refund the public," Ticketconnection managing director Lise Kuhle told Pollstar.

She said she’s been in constant contact with Heafield, who says he’s trying to get the money from Groban’s management. She said she’s also tried getting in direct touch with Groban’s management.

Kuhle said she was advised by attorneys not to comment on whether she saw proof that Heafield sent deposit payments for Groban or how many of the estimated 40,000-plus ticket buyers are still waiting for refunds.

The Dome press release criticising Ticketconnection came on the same afternoon Heafield served papers on Feldman.

Dome sales and marketing manager Grant Medcalf had told Kuhle that "not reimbursing patrons when events are canceled does not bode well for the industry and will affect patrons booking for any other future events.

"Please take note that until such time as all the patrons are refunded from the Josh Groban tour, the Coca-Cola Dome will not permit any promoter booking our venue to utilize the services of Ticketconnection for any event hosted at our venue."

The News24.com story said the Heafield actions are for Rand 111 million ($14 million) in total. R8 million is for defamation of character, R26 million for breach of contract, R54 million for loss of income (for the canceled Groban concerts), and R23 million for breach of confidentiality.

It hasn’t been possible to get comment from Heafield but he was quoted as telling News24.com that he has "no choice but to sue Hazel Feldman, her company Showglo Management Services, and her son Anthony Feldman for defamation of character and serious breach of contract."