Cher claims two previous contracts with UMG predecessors - with MCA division Kapp Records in 1972 and a 1987 deal with the David Geffen Company - entitled her to receive up to 50 per cent of net royalties received by UMG. The 1972 deal also included her then husband Bono. The pair divorced in 1975 and agreed to split the revenue from the songs they recorded together, reports The Daily Telegraph.
After Bono's death in a 1998 skiing accident, his share of the royalties passed to his fourth wife, Mary, and his children. The singer alleges UMG executives made a deal with Warner Music UK to distribute a 1999 compilation Cher The Greatest Hits - and concealed the amount of royalties owed to her, and Bono's heirs.
Cher also challenges accounting on a second record, 2002's The Very Best of Cher. The suit states, "Instead of reporting to and paying plaintiffs their share of the revenues generated by Warner U.K., UMG Recordings, in an egregious example of self-dealing, apparently inserted Universal International as a middleman in the transaction... for the sole purpose of diverting money that rightfully belonged to plaintiffs to Universal International. UMG Recordings is underreporting and underpaying the royalties due to plaintiffs based on UMG Recordings' improperly accounting to plaintiffs based on a royalty rate instead of their respective shares of net receipts."
Cher also claims UMG chiefs improperly deducted 328,662 dollars in television advertising expenses, and that more money is owed from 2004 through to 2008. The star's lawyer, Mark Passin, says, "Universal is playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can with one of the most popular and iconic artists of all time. Unfortunately, record companies have learned over the years that they can increase their bottom line by underreporting royalties to artists."
However, UMG spokesperson Peter Lofrumento has spoken out against the lawsuit: "The claims are meritless, and we are confident that we will prevail in court."