By E Thomas Wood writing in the Nashville City Paper
Fifteen years ago country star Clint Black fell out with his manager, ZZ Top co-founder Bill Ham. He filed a lawsuit over royalties and publishing rights, eventually spending seven months mired in litigation before reaching a settlement and signing on with a new manager/accountant, Charles Sussman. Now Black is suing Sussman and his firm, Gudvi, Sussman & Oppenheim. In a complaint filed in the Davidson County Chancery Court, Black asserts that Sussman and his firm “repeatedly engaged in self-dealing, negligence, and/or gross negligence” in steering his finances. The lawsuit says Sussman convinced Black to assign more than $500,000 in royalties to Equity Records, an independent record label in which both Sussman and Black have minority ownership. Black says he got nothing in return for this arrangement and was, in effect, “providing Equity an interest-free, unsecured loan.” Further, he claims, Sussman was taking monthly payments from Equity without his knowledge. Black claims Sussman also had him sign more than $1 million worth of personal guaranties for Equity. Black also claims that Equity did seem to have the benefit of a long term agreement with rising stars Little Big Town but last April, soon after the group released A Place to Land – the follow-up to its platinum-selling 2005 album The Road to Here – the band left Equity for Capitol Records and Black claims Sussman kept him in the dark about the terms of Little Big Town’s contract. Black seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.