Ex-New Order Bassist Peter Hook Sues Former Bandmates for Millions

REX USA/Tom Watkins/Rex
Peter Hook performs in London on January 17, 2013.

Former New Order bassist Peter Hook is suing his estranged band mates for lost royalties totaling over £2 million ($3 million).

The news is the latest development in a long-standing and extremely bitter fallout between the one-time friends and colleagues and follows a preliminary two-day hearing at London's High Court, which saw Hook win approval to take his case to a full trial.

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The origins of the dispute can be traced back to 2007 when Hook announced in a radio interview that New Order was effectively over -- a news flash that the other members of the band (frontman Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert) later said took them by surprise. Four years later, New Order announced that they had reformed minus its original bassist.

According to Hook's legal team, 2011 also saw Sumner, Morris and Gilbert form a new company -- New Order Limited -- to license the band's trademark and associated goodwill from Vitalturn Ltd, the business that all four members set up in 1992 following the collapse of Factory Records. The new licensing arrangement was not done with Hook's prior knowledge or consent, leading his lawyers to describe it as a "fait accompli." 
"It was as though George Harrison and Ringo Starr had got together at George's house one Friday night and had acted together to divest Paul McCartney of his shareholding in the Beatles, and didn't tell Yoko about it either," said Hook's barrister, Mark Wyeth QC.

The court also heard how the new company had generated income of £7.8 million ($11.8 million) in the four years since reforming, but that Hook only receives 1.25 percent of the band's royalties and other income from merchandise and touring. He argues that he should be getting up to 12.5 percent.

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Wyeth went on to say that the group's "clandestine, premeditated and deliberate" move had "pillaged" New Order of its assets and cost his client £2.3 million ($3.5 million) in lost earnings by October last year, with his losses growing in the intervening period during which the band have released a new album, Music Complete, and continued to tour.

"Mr Hook seeks restoration of the company's misappropriated property, property it has held for more than 20 years," he added.

New Order, represented by David Casement QC, insist they have treated Hook, who last played with the band in 2007, fairly and that his stake in the band's royalties is "entirely reasonable." Describing Hook's complaints as "completely misconceived," they warn that his actions will achieve nothing -- apart from threatening all of them with "potentially disastrous" legal bills that could rise up to £1 million ($1.5 million) for each party.

Nevertheless, Judge David Cooke rejected the band's claims that Mr Hook's "true motive was to get back into the band or spite the defendants" and that he had just cause to pursue the matter to a full trial where there was "at least a reasonable prospect' of proving he is not getting a fair share of royalties.

The Judge did, however, strongly urge the two parties to resolve the matter outside the courts and avoid "the expense of pursuing this matter to trial."

Following the hearing, Hook issued a statement in which he said he was "delighted with the [Court's] decision. 

"It found in my favour and justifies the stance I have taken," he went on to say. "The judge made a number of important points when giving his judgment and rejected a lot of the Defendants' submissions. Both sides' costs in this case are very substantial. I was obviously pleased that the Judge ordered the Defendants to pay mine. I'm very happy with the outcome and it bodes well for the future."

A spokesperson for New Order could not be contacted at time of publishing. 


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