The former manager and producers for Bishop Briggs are suing her for breach of contract, claiming the English singer used their good standings and experience in the music industry to her self benefit before terminating their partnerships as her career is poised to take off.
In a suit filed Tuesday (March 13) in Los Angeles, the attorneys for George Robertson detail the manager’s relationship with the artist née Sarah McLaughlin, from their meeting at a club in 2015 to his role in rebooting her career under the name Bishop Briggs with an entirely new aesthetic. During this time, Briggs allegedly told Robertson she wanted him to be her manager and the two agreed he was entitled to a 20 percent share of her revenue — a fee he initially deferred as her career was getting going.
In addition to developing Briggs’ career, and advancing the money to do so, Robertson connected the singer with producers Mark Jackson and Ian Scott — who are also listed as plaintiffs. They wrote, recorded and produced all but one of Briggs’ songs to date, including her debut single “Wild Horses” and breakout “River,” which hit No. 10 on the Hot Rock Songs chart and has been certified gold by the RIAA. They also helped design and hire band and crew members for Briggs’ live show and personally performed with her “because they were assured by Briggs that their efforts would be rewarded through a long-term arrangement once a record deal was in place.”
As things started to pick up, the plaintiffs drafted a production agreement with their jointly owned company Teleport Records and Briggs, solidifying their recording agreement in order to begin releasing music. That was signed in early 2016 and laid out terms with options totaling up to five albums, provided they entered into a distribution agreement with a major label within one year of its signing. In that event, the term of the agreement was to become coterminous with that distribution deal, matching its scope.
Once that deal was in place, according to the suit, Robertson set about getting Briggs a deal and less than three months later they signed with Universal Music Group’s Island Records. At this point, Robertson sought to formalize his and Briggs’ manager/artist relationship with a written deal that was negotiated between their personal attorneys, but Briggs refused to sign. “Robertson was shocked, but determined it best to revisit the subject at a later time, especially considering he and Briggs already had a binding verbal agreement,” the lawsuit states.
As things progressed, Briggs began requesting that her sister Kate McLaughlin have a role in her day-to-day management. The plaintiffs attempted to appease this request although they “did not feel comfortable with McLaughlin acting with any management responsibilities.” Eventually, McLaughlin assumed duties and integrated herself increasingly into Briggs’ daily life. This created disagreements over time, but the suit states the parties always found a way to continue working together and keep their relationships “friendly and productive.”
But on Feb. 20, this changed when the plaintiffs received two letters from Briggs’ attorney purporting to terminate both the production and management agreements. Three days later, Briggs released her new song “White Flag,” which was written with Jackson and Scott, along with details announcing the April 20 release of her debut album, Church of Stars, and plans for a headlining North American tour in its support.
The first letter claimed that in 2017 Briggs fulfilled her initial commitment to the production agreement and Teleport failed to exercise its option following, further stating the term has expired on its own as well. The second letter was a formal notice terminating Briggs and Robertson’s verbal agreement, alleging “various financial irregularities” in the calculation of her income and his fees, which her business manager will seek to reconcile.
The plaintiffs attest that there is no rational or legal basis for Briggs terminating their agreements, claiming her statement the production deal expired is erroneous and pointing to the clause that contract would become coterminous with any distribution deal as proof. As well, they allege that McLaughlin and others “intentionally and knowingly interfered with Plaintiffs’ relationship with Briggs by convincing Briggs to take steps to terminate the arrangements with Plaintiffs so that McLaughlin could assume management duties and reap the benefits of the hard work Plaintiffs expended building Briggs career.” They even go so far as to accuse Briggs and McLaughlin of bragging about secretly recording their conversations — which could be an illegal act — in an attempt to obtain damning evidence that would be used to breach the agreements.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that Briggs herself has previously breached their agreement when she entered into a merchandising deal in 2016 that violated the production agreement’s terms. Under that deal, they would be entitled to 30 percent of merchandising profits, which they say Briggs failed to pay them, claiming unjust enrichment.
“Despite Plaintiffs’ tireless efforts on her behalf, Defendant Briggs has chosen to breach her agreements with Plaintiffs, renege on all assertions made to Plaintiffs, and reap the benefits of Plaintiffs’ actions by unceremoniously dismissing those who helped make her a star and build her career,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are also claiming breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, tortious interference and declaratory judgment against Briggs and McLaughlin. They are seeking a trial by jury in hopes of receiving compensatory damages, punitive damages and restitution for the alleged unjust wrongdoing of amounts to be determined. As well, they are looking for an order requiring Briggs to perform services and remit to them a percentage of her revenue pursuant to the terms of their original agreements.
Briggs and McLaughlin could not be reached for comment.