Details on Hall & Oates’ Lawsuit Mystery Emerge: Unsealed Declarations Reveal Longstanding Rift, Accusations of ‘Ultimate Partnership Betrayal’

Daryl Hall has filed a declaration in court accusing ‘adversarial and aggressive' John Oates of secretly attempting to sell a 50% stake in their joint venture to Primary Wave — to 'burden and harass’ him.
  • Save

Daryl Hall and John Oates deliver a live performance six years prior to their legal battle. Photo Credit: Raph_PH

Sadly, the members of one of music’s most successful duos are now at war. Daryl Hall has filed a declaration in court accusing ‘adversarial and aggressive’ John Oates of secretly attempting to sell a 50% stake in their joint venture to Primary Wave.

Last week, DMN first reported on an unexpected lawsuit between Hall & Oates members Daryl Hall and John Oates. Sealed filings led to speculation surrounding the details, though the details of the dispute remained largely unknown.

That’s slowly starting to change. Freshly-unsealed case files now reveal that the complaint is based on Hall’s vehement objection to the proposed sale of the duo’s joint venture Whole Oats Enterprises (WOE) to Primary Wave. Adding another twist to this dispute, it appears as though Oates’ choice of Primary Wave as its buyer is upsetting Hall more than Oates’ alleged intention to sell. The music company has owned a ‘significant interest’ in the duo’s song catalog for over 15 years.

As the Philly-based duo exchange blows via declarations filed in Nashville Chancery court, the Associated Press reveals Hall had previously filed a private arbitration case against Oates on November 9th. Unsettled by the possibility that the sale would go through regardless, Hall then filed another lawsuit in Tennessee on November 16th, seeking a court order to block the agreement between Oates and Primary Wave.

In the filing, Hall accuses Oates of engaging in the ‘ultimate partnership betrayal,’ also naming as defendants co-executors of the trust, Oates’ wife Aimee and business manager Richard Flynn.

Hall details that in October — just as he was about to leave for a tour that took him throughout the U.S. West Coast, Japan, and Manila — he was ‘blindsided’ when he learned of the proposed sale. The soul singer admits that at the time, he and Oates were engaged in mediation over ‘other issues.’ The duo had already started planning the dissolution of their touring company and other professional ventures, but Hall claims Oates never brought up the possibility that his stake in WOE would be up for sale.

Hall appears convinced that his former partner intended to ‘burden and harass’ him, writing, “John Oates was very combative and protective with respect to WOE, and consistently conveyed his desire to keep his ownership and that partnership intact and operative — there was never a hint that he would try to ambush me with a sale.”

“I believe that John Oates timed the unauthorized transaction to create the most harm to me,” claims Hall, adding it caused ‘tremendous upheaval, harm, and difficulty’ in his life.

The singer further reveals his belief that John Oates and the co-trustees ‘surreptitiously sought to sell half of the WOE assets without obtaining my written approval.’

In response to Hall’s detailed declaration, Oates submitted a filing addressing Hall’s ‘inflammatory, outlandish, and inaccurate statements,’ arguing that he has in fact made several attempts to enhance their business dealings and ventures.

After the judge issued a temporary restraining order on the same day Hall filed the lawsuit, Oates requested that the court not extend the restraining order (which typically lasts 15 days). The band’s songwriter-guitarist stated that he did not wish to make public the details of his ‘personal’ dealings.

Oates further states that Hall has wanted to be seen as an individual for years, saying, “Over the years, Daryl has consistently and publicly been adamant about being perceived as an individual rather than as part of a duo or group. Thus, he has insisted on our being known as ‘Daryl Hall and John Oates,’ rather than the more commonly known ‘Hall & Oates.’

“On this point, I agree. I now must act with truthfulness and make decisions that are right for myself, my family, and my artistic future.”

With a sale of WOE, the band’s ‘highly personal assets’ like trademarks, personal name and likeness rights, their record royalty income, and ‘certain HO social media and related website assets’ would be shared by Primary Wave.

On the matter of WOE’s supposed buyer, Hall isn’t holding back — and appears particularly distressed about the stake going to Primary Wave.

“Primary Wave is a company that brands itself as having a strong focus on exploiting not only copyrights but the trademarks and name and likeness rights of the artists from whom they purchase catalog rights,” Hall states, adding, “If Primary Wave becomes my partner, they will likely have a goal to use the WOE assets, and my name and likeness, for branding and exploitations.”

According to the filing, Hall will not have Oates ‘thrust a new partner upon me in this outrageous fashion,’ that he had ‘no intention of becoming partners with Primary Wave,” and the idea is ‘incredibly upsetting.’

“No amount of money could compensate me for being forced to partner with an entity that I did not agree with and whose business model does not comport with my views regarding the WOE assets. The harm is unimaginable,” Hall relays.

In Oates response, the guitarist states that confidentiality agreements bar him from divulging further details, but refuted the accusation that he has violated their partnership contract with a clandestine deal.

“I can only say that Daryl’s accusations that I breached our agreement, went ‘behind’ his back, ‘acted in bad faith,’ and the like, are not true.”

A hearing is scheduled for this morning (Thursday) in Nashville. More as this drama unfolds.