Idol Worship

'American Idol' Finale: Inside Phillip Phillips' Contentious Return

Phillip Phillips
Courtesy of 19/Interscope

Phillip Phillips

The singer's continuing legal dispute with 19 Entertainment made for a tricky booking.

When performers at Thursday night's American Idol finale were first announced, the list touted a return of the show's previous winners, but one name was missing: season 11 champ Phillip Phillips.

As the news spread of this glaring omission, speculation immediately turned to the singer's continuing legal dispute with 19 Entertainment. In Jan. 2015, Phillips filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner (CLC) in an effort to void his deals with companies affiliated with Idol producer 19 Entertainment. He's asserting that the management contract he made as a precursor to his success on the program runs afoul of the Talent Agencies Act, the California law that says only licensed talent agents can procure employment for clients.

Phillips is arguing that 19 signed him to an automatic contract after he was crowned the winner in 2011, and unlawfully procured employment on behalf through his successful sales and appearances, in violation of the TAA. He also alleged that he was "exploited" and booked for shows at less than his market value.

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Indeed, even Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of Idol's farewell episode, acknowledged the "politics" of the situation in an interview with Billboard on finale morning. "You just go, 'Oh please, this is getting silly,'" Lythgoe recounted. "So I just went straight to Phillip's attorney." Phillips is represented by Laurie Soriano of King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner.

A truce was called, and Phillips did indeed appear on the program, but not before tweeting about the decision. "All I want to say is, no matter what, I would never miss this," Phillips wrote of the finale. "I will always be grateful to American Idol, its cast and crew."

 

Memories that will last a life time. Thank you American Idol and all of the wonderful people I got to know through it.

A photo posted by Phillip Phillips (@phillphill) on

A source tells Billboard that Phillips felt it was important to let people know that he does not have bad feelings toward the show, even if he is "very adverse to 19." Adds another insider: "The bottom line is, he is not one to let the dispute with 19 stand in the way of celebrating and marking the moment with Idol and Fox, who Phillip considers family. He loves Idol."

In fact, the detente may be short-lived. A source with knowledge of the legal proceedings says, "the battle continues" -- with a labor commission hearing scheduled for May 31. It should be noted, however, that labor commissioner rulings can take several months following a hearing.