Van Really Was The Man
The affidavit that John Saunders, a co-founder and regional president of marketing and communications firm Fleishman-Hillard, filed before High Court in Belfast in early April proved vital in the lifting of an injunction that had previously blocked the paper from publishing a piece linking the Irish singer-songwriter to Gigi Lee.
Morrison abandoned his court battle to cover up his relationship with the mother of his child after Saunders’ statement and The Mail On Sunday’s revelation that Lee withheld vital evidence from the judge that initially granted the injunction.
He launched his controversial attempt to muzzle the press after he failed to quell speculation about a posting on his website announcing that a flamboyant Texas woman, Gigi Lee, had given birth to his son, namesake and “spitting image,” George Ivan Morrison III.
However, within days, John Saunders told national broadcaster RTE the website had been hacked and the story about Morrison fathering a baby was completely false.
He said he’s spoken to the singer, who categorically denied knowing anything about it and said he didn’t even know a Gigi Lee.
It later emerged that Lee had been the executive producer of Morrison’s U.S. tour in 2009, months before the story hit the headlines in December of that year.
However, in the affidavit filed in the Belfast court Saunders said he had been professionally and personally compromised when it subsequently emerged that Morrison did in fact know Lee.
He released a statement that said he had acted on “categoric and very specific instructions” and information given to him personally by Morrison when he’d spoken up on the singer’s behalf.
Saunders also admitted he had agreed to the RTE interview as a favour to Morrison, claiming he’d done it for “a number of reasons.”
These apparently included his long-standing friendship with Michelle, Morrison’s wife, and the fact he believed they had a good relationship that was being put under undue stress.
“The statement and Van’s denials received global coverage and, for the most part, widespread acceptance,” Saunders explained. “I was therefore totally bewildered, never mind compromised professionally and personally, when it subsequently transpired that Gigi Lee was in fact not only known to Van but was in fact a member of his commercial entourage.”
Lee sent an email Dec. 24, 2009, to Morrison’s North America publicist, Phil Lobel, and Web Sheriff – a company that usually keeps unwanted content off the Internet – requesting there be a “real pretty announcement” on Morrison’s website and provided the text.
Pollstar was alerted to the announcement via email Dec. 31 from Lobel’s Lobeline Communcations: “Because of your interest of Van Morrison over the past year, he asked me to forward you this great news!”
Lobel, apparently on vacation, soon had his staff contact the magazine to inform Pollstar the site had been hacked.
(Pollstar news editor Joe Reinartz contributed to this post.)