Lil Wayne is facing a $20 million lawsuit from his ex-manager, lawyer and former Sony Music exec Ronald Sweeney, for allegedly failing to pay management fees as well as 10 percent of the revenue deriving from a pair of lawsuits that “brought in a substantial amount of money.”
Ronald Sweeney, who has managed Sean “Diddy” Combs, Public Enemy, DMX, and other well-known acts, aside from Lil Wayne, recently submitted the complaint (with his Avant Garde management company also named as a plaintiff) to a California federal court. Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the corresponding filing, which names as defendants Lil Wayne (whose full name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), his Young Money Entertainment record label, and other Young Money divisions.
Sweeney “worked tirelessly as Lil Wayne’s manager and close confidante for nearly 14 years,” the legal text indicates early on, including by spearheading “over 30” lawsuits since 2016. His professional relationship with the “Lollipop” rapper initiated in 2005, when he was hired to fix “a terrible contractual arrangement that Lil Wayne had with Cash Money Records.”
Following an “extremely successful” effort in this regard, Carter Jr. “orally agreed” to hire Sweeney as a personal manager (as well as a manager for his label and businesses) in exchange for a 10 percent commission on gross revenues, per the complaint.
The business arrangement proceeded under these terms, though something of an obstacle emerged in 2013, and the plaintiffs met Lil Wayne at Atlanta’s Mardarin Hotel during the early hours of the morning late that year or in 2014’s beginning to discuss the matter. There, Sweeney and other Avant Garde professionals told the New Orleans native “that Cash Money had become a serious problem,” before advising him “that the only way that he was ever going to see any more money from Cash Money was to sue the company.”
While Lil Wayne was short on cash at the time, according to the suit, Sweeney agreed to handle the litigation in exchange for a portion of the settlement – specifically 10 percent payments “in perpetuity” and 10 percent of the revenues associated with the sale of any Young Money masters (besides the aforementioned 10 percent management fee).
Sweeney and Avant Garde then hired “a prominent and highly capable law firm” on Lil Wayne’s behalf, opting unilaterally to forego striking a contingency fee deal (as Carter Jr. allegedly requested that they do, based upon advice he received from a “prominent rapper”) to minimize expenses. “Substantial (confidential) settlement payments” ultimately derived from the case (as well as separate litigation against Universal Music Group and SoundExchange), with Sweeney having worked on “securing and managing litigation counsel” all the while.
The plaintiffs maintain that Lil Wayne made two post-settlement installments at the 10 percent figure outlined in the aforementioned verbal agreement, before ceasing the payments.
Finally, though Lil Wayne hired childhood friends Cortez Bryant and Mack Maine to serve as his day-to-day manager and president of Young Money, respectively, the plaintiffs allege that “Sweeney was the one who managed and handled all of the day-to-day business decisions for the company” and “essentially acted as the managers of the managers.”
The filing relays later that Lil Wayne asked Sweeney to fire Bryant in 2018, due to litigation involving Bryant’s Aspire Music Group and UMG (the latter’s Republic Records distributes for Lil Wayne’s Young Money), after which point the plaintiffs assumed Bryant’s duties in exchange for a seven percent commission boost, upping the total to 17 percent.
Bryant and Maine then allegedly “conspired together to drive a wedge” between Lil Wayne and Sweeney/Avant Garde, given their influence as childhood friends, ostensibly so he would fire Sweeney as manager and rehire Bryant. The rapper than cut ties with Sweeney in September of 2018, per the filing, and sold the Young Money masters to UMG “for in excess of $100 Million” in June of this year.
For allegedly unpaid management fees and, more significantly, a portion of the master sales and the settlements, the plaintiffs are seeking north of $20 million. At the time of publishing, Lil Wayne – who also pled guilty today to a gun-possession charge, with a sentencing date set for January 28th – hadn’t publicly commented on Sweeney’s suit.
Chance the Rapper, Celine Dion, and Kelly Clarkson have made headlines in recent months for facing lawsuits centering on allegedly unpaid management fees, and specifically those that encompass years-running verbal contracts.