By George Matlock
On his third and final day giving evidence Nov. 17, 2000, Elton made a dramatic courtroom apology to his former lover and business manager John Reid for dragging up at Londons High Court details of an old criminal conviction.
Just eight feet from seated Mr Reid, Elton told the packed London court he regretted making a “very irresponsible remark” about Mr Reid. Sir Elton said Mr Reid had been jailed for a month for punching a woman (journalist in New Zealand in 1973 as is well-documented. Reid had also spent three days in a police cell awaiting charges and the court case).
Reid had also sat at close proximity when Elton made his comment on Nov. 16, 2000 in Court room 17: “It was a very passionate response and a very irresponsible remark for me to make at that time,” Elton said with hindsight Nov. 17, 2000.
He said: “It was a very passionate response and a very irresponsible remark for me to make at that time. I regret saying that. I was very tired. It was a long day of badgering questions.”
It was actually a comment made early in the European day, as Elton had in fact not served out a full day in court the court had been adjourned early Thursday to allow Elton to exit for a concert in Antwerp that night.
Sir Elton is suing Andrew Haydon, of Elton’s former management company John Reid Enterprises (JRE), and City accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which looked after his business interests.
Elton alleges Haydon was negligent in allowing JRE to charge him tour expenses – including booking agents, accountants and producers. Elton’s case is that the “several millions” which he paid out in touring expenses should have been borne by JRE under a management agreement. PricewaterhouseCoopers (at that time called Price Waterhouse) are accused by Elton of negligence in managing his affairs. Both defendants are contesting vigorously Elton’s legal action. The case, which began Oct. 30, 2000, is expected to last eight weeks.
It should be made clear that Mr Reid is not the subject of the lawsuit, only Haydon and PwC are the subject, following settlement by way of a £3.4 million compensation payment by Mr Reid to Elton after they parted company in 1998.
Elton had made the original sensational comment about Mr Reids conviction towards the end of the short Thursday session. Andrew Fletcher, barrister for Haydon, suggested to Elton that it was highly improbable that the “fiercely loyal” Mr Reid had deliberately tried to “swindle” the musician.
Elton had replied: “Why would someone with a criminal record be incapable of doing something like that?” Reid shook his head.
Sir Elton agreed that Mr Reid and his accountants were anxious for him to pay into a pension fund. Sir Elton said: There was so much money coming in I decided I could live a lavish lifestyle. I have no dependants and I was going to enjoy my life. I am not a nest-egg person.
Elton also took another chance to quash his Madison Square Garden concert quit outburst, which now may have been in part the result of Eltons concerns about the imminent legal proceedings in London.
There was never any question of me retiring. I have said in concerts that I am retiring when I am in a bad mood. I am nearly 54 and enjoying what I do more than ever.
Mr Fletcher then suggested: We all have to retire at some stage.
Sir Elton retorted: Do we? Why cant I drop dead on stage? Lots of other people do. I have no intention of retiring.
Elton Friday told the court he was wrong to bring up history, before going on to elaborate on the comment he had made the day before. The New Zealand incident left Reid with a criminal record. It happened “when he was defending my name against a journalist, which I was very grateful for. He was defending my honour. I wasn’t very grateful that he punched a woman in the face. He went to prison for that,” Elton explained November 17, 2000.
In an admission that the conviction was irrelevant to the case before the High Court, Elton continued: ” I do not think it has anything to do with his financial judgment. I regret saying that and I would like to apologise for saying that. I think it was a very callous response by me and a very irresponsible remark.
Nevertheless, Sir Elton still accused Mr Reid of betraying him over touring costs.
He doubted Mr Reid had made an “honest mistake” about what was agreed between them over tour expenses in St Tropez in 1984.
Elton said he had a “perfectly clear” recollection of the meeting in St Tropez when he and Mr Reid finally sorted out their management agreement after a lengthy period of “haggling”.
Part of that agreement, Elton insisted, was that JRE should bear touring costs.
That contract had boosted JREs earnings from Elton. JRE had increased its commission to 20% of Elton’s pre-tax earnings (previously it had been after-tax earnings) together with publishing income in the 1984 agreement, which was finally ratified in 1986.
Elton said: “It was a contract verbally between two people who had lived together for five years. He was a huge part of my life. He was my partner for five years (in the 1970s). When I did a deal with him I didn’t have to write anything down, or so I thought.”
Fletcher suggested to Sir Elton that his recollection of exactly what had been agreed in 1984 was bound to be “somewhat hazy” because they were dealing with a subject “which was of limited interest to you”.
Sir Elton replied pointedly: “It was not of limited interest to me, I beg your pardon. He wanted a piece of my publishing. When I am writing a song that is like a child to me. “
“I was in the end prepared to give him song-writing to shut him up from the continual whining over the last two years that he was an underpaid, poor, curmudgeonly manager… You are giving away a piece of your soul, yourself, your song… When I write a song it’s like a child to me.
Sir Elton went on: “He was my manager, he loved being my manager and the kudos that came with it. The more I bought something the more he bought, so it became very competitive. He had free range to do whatever he liked.”
Andrew Fletcher, then reminded Sir Elton about events in November 1988 when he had borrowed £2.4m, but added: “I know my net worth as an artist. It doesn’t seem to me that £2.4m was an awful lot to borrow on assets such as mine.”
Mr Fletcher suggested that Sir Elton’s attitude towards his spending had added considerably to the administrative burden of his management company. Elton impatiently shook his head: “I just don’t get this administrative burden thing. I was the only major artist they had. I have burdens. I have the pressure of going into the studio every year and writing 15 new songs.
“I have the burden of fulfilling concerts. I have to turn up on time and give a good show. They weren’t out on the road with me. They weren’t in the studios with me. What else were they doing?”
But Eltons court gaffe woes didnt end on the conviction comment. Sir Elton also admitted misleading the public about his relationship with Mr Reid.
On Friday, dressed in a khaki Versace suit, pale blue shirt and green tie, Sir Elton admitted a statement he issued in 1998 suggesting that their business relationship had “ended amicably” was untrue.
“I did that because I wanted us both to get on with our lives. I did believe that Mr Reid had acted dishonestly at that point.
“I was just trying to end it in the most amicable and friendly way,” Sir Elton said.
“It was not necessarily what I meant, but it was what was put out to the press and the people.”
Giving his testimony, Elton would lean forward combatively, his left hand firmly in his trouser pocket. But there were lighter-hearted moments too, such as when Watford Football Club became a talking point.
A barrister who said he himself supported rival Division One team Queens Park Rangers, asked Sir Elton “Watford Football Club, was that a charitable purpose?”
Elton laughed and said: “Yes it was – a very charitable purpose.”
Having finished giving evidence in the case, Sir Elton appeared to be cheerful outside court.
He said: “It has been very tiring but I think I got very fair treatment from all the QCs.”
Sir Elton did not complain about cross-examination of his spending habits: “It was something I expected would happen. I knew the spending thing would come up.”
And the verdict? “We shall just have to wait and see what the judgment is,” Elton said.
The case continues.
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