Legal and Management

Journey Fire Steven Smith & Ross Valory Over Alleged 'Coup,' File $10M Lawsuit

Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon, Journey
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Journey

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and founder and guitarist Neal Schon of the band Journey are seen at Prudential Center on June 15, 2018 in Newark, N.J.

Neal Schon and Jon Cain are accusing their former bandmates of attempting to gain control of the band's trademark.

The members of Journey are going their separate ways in dramatic fashion.

Guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain have filed suit against drummer Steven Smith and bassist Ross Valory, alleging the two attempted a "coup" in order to gain control of the “Journey” trademark. According to the complaint, which was filed in California Superior Court on Tuesday, Schon and Cain are seeking damages in excess of $10 million. They have also expelled Smith and Valory from the band.

The suit, which was filed by law firm Miller Barondess, lays out what the plaintiffs allege was an underhanded effort by their former bandmates to steal away the “Journey” name, to which Schon and Cain claim they own the exclusive rights per a 1998 agreement signed with former frontman Steve Perry when he left the group. That agreement followed a previous one entered into by Schon, Cain and Perry in 1985 via the corporate entity Nightmare Productions providing the trio with an “exclusive, irrevocable license” over the Journey trademark.

The alleged plot by Valory and Smith to assume control of the trademark culminated on Feb. 13, 2020, when Schon and Cain allege the two men held “improper” shareholder and board of directors meetings of Nightmare Productions under the "incorrect" assumption that the company held the rights to the Journey name. They accuse Smith, Valory and unnamed “allies” of voting in those meetings to give Smith and Valory control of the board, with Smith usurping Cain as board president and Valory replacing Schon as secretary.

“With control of Nightmare Productions, per the Complaint, Smith and Valory incorrectly believe they can seize control of the Journey name and force Schon, Cain and Nightmare Productions to provide them with wind-fall payments after their retirement; they want to be paid a share of Journey touring revenue in perpetuity under the guise of a licensing fee while they perform absolutely no work for the band,” said Miller Barondess in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

Representatives for Valory and Smith did not respond to Billboard's requests for comment by press time.

Though both Smith and Valory have been members of Journey on and off since the band formed in 1973, the complaint diminishes their contributions to the group, stating that the two “have very few song credits on Journey’s albums.” Schon is the only founding member of Journey that remains in the band. Cain joined in 1980, departed in 1987 and returned in 1995 and has played with them ever since. The only other remaining member of Journey is current frontman Arnel Pineda, who joined the group in 2007.

In addition to compensatory and punitive damages (plus interest), Schon and Cain are seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Valory and Smith to prevent their alleged scheme; a declaration that Schon and Cain own the exclusive rights to the Journey trademark via their entity Elmo Partners and are expressly authorized to perform as Journey, with or without any of the other band members; a declaration that all actions taken during the Feb. 13 board and shareholder meetings are invalid; and attorneys’ fees and other costs related to the suit.