Warner Records CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck, WMG Sued for Allegedly Reneging A&R Exec’s Job Offer
Veteran A&R executive Mike Flynn is suing Warner Music Group, Warner Records and Warner Records co-chairman and CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck for allegedly breaching a contract of employment, documents filed…
Veteran A&R executive Mike Flynn is suing Warner Music Group, Warner Records and Warner Records co-chairman and CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck for allegedly breaching a contract of employment, documents filed in California Superior Court show.
Filed on Tuesday by Flynn’s lawyer James T. Ryan, the complaint accuses the defendants of reneging on an oral offer to hire Flynn as senior vp A&R at Warner Records in 2018. According to Flynn, the defendants offered him $500,000 annually for a three-year term, including a signing bonus of $25,000, a target bonus of $150,000 per year and a $5,000 monthly reimbursement for recording studio costs. The terms of the alleged agreement also allowed Flynn to perform producer services for artists signed to Warner, entitling him to a 4% royalty rate deriving from those services.
Flynn is suing the defendants for breach of oral contract, promissory estoppel, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, negligent interference with prospective economic relations and intentional interference with contractual relations. He is asking for actual, general and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial; punitive damages; all costs related to the suit; and pre-judgment interest.
“These claims are totally baseless,” a Warner Records spokesperson told Billboard in a statement. Flynn’s attorney did not respond to Billboard’s request for further comment by press time.
According to the complaint, preliminary negotiations for the A&R role happened on several fronts. Flynn alleges that after it was announced Bay-Schuck would be moving from Interscope Records (where he previously served as president of A&R) to Warner Records in September 2017, Bay-Schuck “immediately began recruiting Flynn” after Flynn sent him a text message regarding the press release. In October and November of that same year, Flynn claims to have also entered negotiations with WMG for an executive vp A&R role at the Warner Records label, while in November his transactional counsel Joel Katz began negotiating with the company on his behalf.
Regarding his interactions with Bay-Schuck, Flynn claims that the executive — though still working at Interscope at the time — encouraged him to sign with Warner after Flynn informed him that he was in the process of negotiating other opportunities at both Sony Music/Columbia Records and 300 Entertainment. As a result of WMG’s subsequent alleged offer of employment, Flynn says he informed both Sony Music and 300 Entertainment that he would no longer be pursuing opportunities with them, only to be informed by WMG just days later that it had retracted the offer due to an “internal investigation” that had turned up “negative issues” with him. He further claims that WMG told him Bay-Schuck “confirmed” information that came out of the alleged investigation.
The crux of Flynn’s complaint revolves around WMG’s alleged obfuscation of the real reason it backed out of the agreement. He claims the company concocted the internal investigation story “in order to avoid repercussions” from Bay-Schuck’s business dealings with WMG — which would, according to Flynn, have “necessarily included Bay-Schuck’s involvement in recruiting” him — while still employed by Interscope after the latter company allegedly sent the parties involved a cease-and-desist letter. He further attempts to poke holes in WMG’s rationale by citing a March 2018 offer of consulting work with the company after being turned down for the A&R job.
“WARNER would not have offered the Consulting Agreement to Flynn a month after it reneged on the Employment Agreement if WARNER believed it could not employ Flynn for the reason told to Flynn in February 2018,” the complaint reads. Flynn goes on to note that the consulting agreement was “far less lucrative” than the alleged offer of employment, and that after Bay-Schuck encouraged Flynn to make a counteroffer in an amount equal to what he would have been paid as an employee, the company rejected it. Flynn claims he has been unable to secure “comparable” work to what he was “promised” by WMG since that time.
As the complaint notes, Flynn has served in a number of roles during his 20-year career in the music industry, including as head of A&R and staff producer at Sony/Epic Records and executive vp head of A&R and staff producer at Capitol Records, where he “he discovered and/or supervised multi-platinum artists including Katy Perry, Troye Sivan, Jon Bellion, Tori Kelly, and NF, as well as legendary artists, such as Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie, Don Henley, and Brian Wilson.” He was named to Billboard‘s 40 Under 40 list in 2012, 2013 and 2015.