Guitarist Mick Mars has filed a lawsuit against Mötley Crüe, alleging the '80s hair metal band is trying to kick him out of the group and reduce his ownership stakes because of a debilitating illness.
Mars, 71, says in his claim that he has suffered from a "horrific" disease for decades, a chronic form of arthritis that has effectively fused his spine, left him three inches shorter than he was in high school and unable to turn his head in any direction.
Because of the disease, called ankylosing spondylitis, Mars told the band last year he would be unable to tour. The guitarist "just could no longer physically handle the rigors of the road," according to a lawsuit filed by Mars last week. He said he would be able to perform with them in a "residency situation" and record with the band, the lawsuit states.
In response, the lawsuit claims, Mötley Crüe announced that Mars was "retiring" from the band and would be replaced by another guitarist — and also sought to strip him of his ownership in the business. Mars claims he had no intention of retiring from the group, and accuses co-founder Nikki Sixx of gaslighting Mars by alleging the guitarist had "some sort of cognitive dysfunction."
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Superior Court in Los Angeles County, seeks to provide Mars with access to the band's corporate documents, such as tax returns and contracts. So far, Mötley Crüe has refused to provide the documents to Mars, the lawsuit claims. It's also seeking reimbursement for Mars' legal expenses.
"Before we filed, the band had already commenced an arbitration trying essentially to kick Mick out of the band, and to divest him of any ownership interest in the band's main corporate entity, Motley Crue Inc.," Ed McPherson, Mars' attorney, told CBS MoneyWatch.
Not true says band
An attorney for Mötley Crüe said the group has previously provided Mars the documents he is seeking.
"If this lawsuit was really about documents, then Mick and his lawyer would not have spilled ink recanting a 41-year band history and badmouthing the band's performance on tours," Sasha Frid, the band's attorney, said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
"This lawsuit is nothing more than a malicious attempt to smear the band and Mick's former bandmates to gain leverage—orchestrated by Mick's lawyer," Frid said.
On Twitter, Sixx wrote that the lawsuit represented a "sad day for us." The guitarist added, "[W]e don't deserve this considering how many years we've been propping him up."
The lawsuit sheds light on the business agreements that can provide rock stars with generous streams of revenue through touring, merchandise sales and other ventures. Mötley Crüe's tour with Def Leppard last year earned more than $170 million, according to Billboard.
In response to Mars' decision to step back from touring, the Crüe called "an emergency shareholders' meeting for the band's main corporate entity in order to throw Mars out of the band, to fire him as a director of the corporation, to fire him as an officer of the corporation, and to take away his shares of the corporation," the lawsuit claims.
It alleges, "When he did not go away quietly, they purported to fire him from six additional band corporations and LLCs."
According to the suit, Mötley Crüe sought to cut Mars' share of the group's touring and merchandise sales from 25% to 5% for the portion of the tour he wasn't able to complete, and then down to 0% after that. The band also tried to force Mars to sell his shares in Motley Crue Inc. for "essentially no value," the suit claims.
The legal dispute provides insight into the inner workings of the rock band, whose members have been known for their addictions, run-ins with the law and other problems. Mars alleges that Sixx insulted his playing, telling him that it was subpar and that fans were complaining, even as Sixx allegedly didn't play his bass on tour, relying instead on recordings.
Mars acknowledged that he sometimes played the wrong chords, but blamed it on malfunctioning in-ear monitors.
"The fact is that Mars is rarely mocked or criticized online. He is a quiet member of the group, who shows up to play, and puts his heart and soul into each performance," the lawsuit claims. "Conversely, other band members are often criticized online, particularly [singer Vince] Neil, who is routinely torn to shreds for, among other things, not remembering the songs."
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