Chance The Rapper legal fallout gets nastier: Artist sues ex-manager for more than $1m alleging ‘shocking violations of trust’

You’ll remember that late last year, Chance The Rapper, aka Chancelor Bennett, was sued by his long-time manager, Pat ‘The Manager’ Corcoran. Corcoran claimed that he was owed more than $3 million in unpaid commissions.

Corcoran (via Pat The Manager LLC) sued Chance’s three companies in Illinois, alleging seven counts including Breach Of Contract, Violation Of The Illinois Sales Representative Act, Unjust Enrichment and more.

Now, Chance is fighting back – with an explosive suit of his own.

According to a claim filed by Chance/Bennett this month and obtained by MBW, the rapper accuses his “disgruntled former manager” of having “repeatedly breached his fiduciary responsibilities to Mr. Bennett by trading on Mr. Bennett’s good name for his own benefit”.

In addition, Chance alleges that Corcoran, who the artist sacked in April last year, was “diverting business opportunities to his separate companies, and demanding and accepting kickbacks as the ‘price’ of doing business” with Chance.

Filed in Illinois on Friday (February 19), Chance’s suit demands a trial by jury and at least $1 million in damages. The artist alleges three counts against Corcoran, including Breach Of Fiduciary Duty, Tortious Interference With Prospective Economic Advantage and Breach Of Contract.

In the suit that Corcoran filed against Chance back in November, the manager wrote that the artist’s rapid rise came about whilst being represented by Pat The Manager LLC.

Indeed, Corcoran claimed in his suit that “the iconic pair of Pat Corcoran and Chancelor Bennett, an artist-manager combo for over eight years, together reimagined and forever changed musical artists’ ability to control their careers”.

A different narrative emerges in Chance’s suit, filed on Friday (February 19). It reads: “A decade ago, [Corcoran] was a hanger-on at the fringes of the rap music scene in Chicago. Through a stroke of pure luck, he met Mr. Bennett in 2012, when Mr. Bennett’s career was beginning to show promise. At the time, Mr. Corcoran was simply a fan of Mr. Bennett’s music and had no prior success in managing artists.”

Recognizing Chance’s talent, however, Corcoran then allegedly “offered to do whatever he could to help” the artist. Chance’s filing claims that the rapper’s father, Ken Bennett, suggested that the artist should give Corcoran a chance, and that father and son subsequently tested Corcoran “by assigning him discrete tasks”.

Reads the suit: “Thereafter, Mr. Bennett decided to hire Mr. Corcoran to manage his music career on at-will basis, and the parties reached an oral agreement under which Mr. Corcoran would manage Mr. Bennett’s music career and, during that tenure, would be compensated for his services with 15% of the net profits that Mr. Bennett earned from the exploitation of his music.”

The claims levelled at Corcoran then get pretty serious. According to the filing, which you can read in full here, Chance accuses Corcoran of the following:

1. Corcoran “effectively sabotaged a deal” that would have seen Chance become the “celebrity face” of Steve Stoute’s United Masters

Chance claims that in “late 2017 and into 2018”, Corcoran “interfered with an opportunity” for the artist to become the “face” of a new company “aimed at providing support and services for independent artists”.

What was that opportunity? Chance claims that he was contacted by United Masters founder Steve Stoute (described as “a titan in the music industry”).

Stoute (pictured inset) apparently told Chance that “he was working on creating and growing a new company” – UnitedMasters – as “an alternative to traditional record labels, providing a platform for independent artists to distribute their music and develop their brands yet maintain full control over and ownership of their music”.

Chance says that there was “a natural synergy” between himself and Stoute’s new company, “in that UnitedMasters sought to help music artists accomplish what Mr. Bennett had achieved for himself: success and recognition without the support of a record label or publishing company”.

However, Chance’s lawsuit alleges: “The dishonesty and greed Mr. Corcoran demonstrated during [this] episode, including his effort to effectively convert the value of Mr. Bennett’s reputation and business opportunities to his fledgling entertainment companies, changed the nature of the relationship between the two men”.

“[Steve] Stoute proposed that [Chance] serve as a celebrity ‘face’ of UnitedMasters, in exchange for part ownership in the company, a seat on its board of directors, and very generous cash compensation.”

Stoute, continues the lawsuit, “proposed that [Chance] serve as a celebrity ‘face’ of UnitedMasters, in exchange for part ownership in the company, a seat on its board of directors, and very generous cash compensation”.

Chance’s former manager is then accused of feeling “threatened by the prospect of this deal, which was not to involve him and which would have further cemented Mr. Bennett’s status and prominence as a successful independent artist”.

The lawsuit claims the proposed UnitedMasters partnership “would have been damaging to Mr. Corcoran’s efforts to build his own entertainment companies, including his fledgling record label”. It alleges that Corcoran contacted Stoute and “threatened to kill the [UnitedMasters] deal” unless Corcoran was offered the same compensation as Chance himself.

Adds the filing: “On information and belief, Mr. Corcoran continued to press for his cut in the proposed deal, until Mr. Stoute cut him off. Thereafter, Mr. Stoute contacted Mr. Bennett and revealed Mr. Corcoran’s machinations.

“Months after Mr. Corcoran effectively sabotaged the UnitedMasters deal, Mr. Corcoran’s true motives were revealed when he presented Mr. Bennett with several draft agreements to provide Mr. Bennett with an interest in the various divisions of [Corcoran’s own] Haight Brand (e.g., music, film, sports).

“However, the draft agreements were extremely one-sided in favor of Mr. Corcoran, and they sought to convert Mr. Bennett from an active and developing force in the entertainment world to an asset of Mr. Corcoran’s companies.”

2. Corcoran “totally abdicated his managerial responsibilities during the creation and marketing” of Chance’s debut studio album, The Big Day

In Corcoran’s lawsuit against Chance at the end of 2020, he called The Big Day, the artist’s first studio album, “a subpar product” which ended up “delivering a blow to the reputations of Bennett and Corcoran”. Corcoran further claimed the release of the record was “forced”,  because Chance disregarded his advice.

Chance’s new suit paints a different picture. Chance argues that “as 2018 wore on and into 2019, Mr. Corcoran devoted less and less time” to the artist’s career, and “ultimately totally abdicated his managerial responsibilities during the creation and marketing” of The Big Day”.

“Shockingly, Mr. Corcoran never created a marketing plan for the album,” claims the Chance suit.

It continues: “Rather than develop the requisite comprehensive plan for marketing the album, Mr. Corcoran instead simply advocated aggressively for a single idea: that Mr. Bennett release his earlier mixtapes, 10 Day and Acid Rap, to paid streaming services and on vinyl records as part of the ramp-up to the release of The Big Day.

“After the mixtapes had been released to paid streaming services and physical copies had been listed for sale, Mr. Bennett learned that Mr. Corcoran had lied to him, as 10 Day and Acid Rap had not been cleared.”

“Mr. Bennett was opposed to this plan because of the significant amount of time required to clear the mixtapes (to negotiate permission to use recorded samples and the contributions of composers, performers, and producers) – time and effort that otherwise could have been devoted to the marketing and promotion of The Big Day. Mr. Bennett also was concerned that releasing the mixtapes would divert fan and media attention away from Mr. Bennett’s first studio album. However, he ultimately acceded to the plan in response to Mr. Corcoran’s lobbying efforts.

“Sometime later, Mr. Corcoran advised Mr. Bennett that he had cleared the samples and performances that appeared on 10 Day and Acid Rap. After the mixtapes had been released to paid streaming services and physical copies had been listed for sale, Mr. Bennett learned that Mr. Corcoran had lied to him, as 10 Day and Acid Rap had not been cleared. This exposed Mr. Bennett to potential liability and complicated the release of these mixtapes on the paid streaming services and in physical copies.

“Notwithstanding all these challenges, The Big Day was released successfully on July 26, 2019. It debuted at No.2 on the Billboard 200, and Mr. Bennett was the first artist to achieve that feat without a recording, distribution, or publishing deal.”

Citing an email from Chance’s legal team, Law 360 reports that he rapper has filed a motion to dismiss Corcoran’s lawsuit in addition to filing his own.

Chance’s legal team said that Corcoran “chose to file a groundless and insulting lawsuit that ignores his own improper self-dealing and incompetence” and “has been paid in full” under agreement with the artist.

Remember: Corcoran was asking for: (i) The reimbursement of his alleged $2.5m personal expenditure on Chance’s career; plus (ii) the $3m he says he is owed for historical unpaid commissions; plus (iii) 15% of Chance’s net profit across records, merch and touring for the three years after his was fired on April 27, 2020.

“Mr. Bennett has moved to dismiss the majority of that meritless lawsuit, and filed his own lawsuit to remedy the harm that Mr. Corcoran caused through his breaches of duty,” added Chance’s legal team, in the email to Law360.

“Mr. Bennett trusts the legal system to reveal the truth of the parties’ relationship in due course.”Music Business Worldwide

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