LeAnn Rimes’ Father Hits Back at Her Suit Against Him

Wilbur Rimes’ recent counterclaim against LeAnn Rimes Entertainment, Inc. (LREI) depicts his superstar daughter as “spoiled” and out of control and his former wife, Belinda, as vindictive.

Filed Nov. 28 in 116th Judicial District Court in Dallas, the action responds to the suit LREI and Belinda Rimes (on behalf of LeAnn) lodged May 2 in the same court against Wilbur and others of the star’s former management team. That suit portrays Wilbur Rimes as greedy, maritally unfaithful and more concerned with his own welfare than that of his daughter.

In a style relatively breezy for a legal document, the counterclaim begins with this purported quotation from LeAnn Rimes: “I am not the sweet little girl you think I am. There is a dark side to me, and you are going to see it.” While it does not provide the context for the quotation, the document develops it as the major basis of complaint.

The counterclaim reveals that both Curb Records, Rimes’ present label, and Decca wanted to sign the young artist and that she had two other managers before Wilbur Rimes and Dallas attorney Lyle Walker assumed management duties. According to the counterclaim, Rimes took a less-than-industry-standard fee for his management and producer shares of his daughter’s income as an artist.

Friction within the family surfaced publicly in 1997 when Belinda Rimes filed for divorce. In the divorce settlement, Wilbur Rimes was allowed to maintain his position as head of LREI. In addition, the document says, Rimes agreed to pay his ex-wife half his management fees, half his producer’s fees on all the songs he had produced prior to the divorce and a third of the fee on all songs he produced after the divorce.

The next year, the counterclaim alleges, LeAnn Rimes “became romantically involved with country music star Bryan White” and insisted on touring with him. It was during this time, says the document, that “LeAnn began acting like a spoiled brat,” refusing to do promotional “liners” for radio stations in the markets where she was performing and cutting short the “meet-and-greet” sessions for sponsors and fans. “Instead,” the charge states, “she would spend her days playing and shopping, showing up at the venue in time for her one (1) hour performance and then returning to her luxury accommodations, ignoring the hundreds of fans who stood, sometimes for hours, outside waiting for a smile or a word.”

Further, the counterclaim says, LeAnn was resisting “the normal parental restrictions imposed by her father, like not being able to travel alone with White on his coach, and other things not appropriate for a child her age.”

In the summer of 1998, the suit continues, “LeAnn lost interest in Bryan White … and began dating [actor Andrew] Keegan.” Through Keegan, Rimes met Robert Lavetta, identified in the counterclaim as a “personal trainer cum script writer.” Purportedly Rimes wanted her father to hire Lavetta as her personal trainer. “Wilbur refused,” says the suit, “citing Lavetta’s demand of more than $1,000 per day for his services and Wilbur’s concern about a 40-year-old man in constant companionship with his then 15-year-old daughter.” (Rimes was born Aug. 28, 1982.)

The counterclaim also says that Wilbur protested against his daughter’s and his ex-wife’s extravagance. It says the two each began constructing a home in Nashville and then abruptly abandoned them in the fall of 1998 when LeAnn insisted on moving to Los Angeles to “investigate acting opportunities.” Quitting the buildings in progress, Wilbur Rimes maintains, cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

In Los Angeles, the suit contends, the excessive spending continued. “Although Curb Records had given LeAnn a luxury BMW, LeAnn bought a $150,000 Ferrari, that Keegan immediately wrecked, and a $350,000 Bentley, that she immediately wrecked. She gave the BMW to Keegan’s mother.”

During this period, the action says, Wilbur Rimes was “struggling mightily to hold LeAnn’s recording career together. She was in default on her contract with Curb Records and was refusing to honor other agreements she had made.” Allegedly, there were other worries: “Wilbur discovered in the spring of 1999, to his complete dismay, that Belinda had allowed the twenty (20)-year-old Keegan to move in with his then 16 year old daughter and that LeAnn was secretly paying Lavetta thousands of dollars to act as her ‘body guard.’ … [Wilbur] discovered from LeAnn’s credit card bills that she was also buying liquor.”

These discoveries led to a family court hearing in Texas, the counterclaim says, that mandated “family counseling and drug testing … and that LeAnn not be allowed to live with unrelated adult males.” Both LeAnn and her mother ignored these orders, according to the complaint.

In the document, Rimes contends that Keegan and Lavetta “falsely” represented themselves as LeAnn’s managers and told her he was “a cheat and was stealing from her, and that he was doing a poor job … Belinda, Keegan, and Lavetta went so far as to hire security at concert venues to keep Wilbur away from LeAnn.”

Belinda Rimes went to court last year, the suit says, to have Wilbur removed as head of LREI, and he agreed to let Belinda take charge of LREI and LeAnn’s affairs. As a part of the agreement, he was to continue to receive his producer fees. In spite of the agreement, the counterclaim contends that LREI has since instructed Curb Records not to pay Rimes his fees.

“The malice extended past denying Wilbur his rightfully earned producer fee to denying Wilbur ‘producer credit’ on the last-released recording he had produced for LeAnn,” the suit continues. “In an attempt to assist LeAnn in improving her image, Wilbur agreed to produce a contemporary gospel single, ‘I Need You,’ and donate the producer fee to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in LeAnn Rimes’ name. However, Wilbur specifically required, in a written agreement, that LREI give him producer fee credit on the recording.” The suit says that not only did LREI fail to give such credit, but that LeAnn Rimes said in a Billboard interview that she produced the record.

The counterclaim charges LREI with various breaches of contract and asks the court for a declaratory judgment that Wilbur Rimes be recognized and paid directly by Curb Records for all released records he has produced.

On Nov. 15, LeAnn Rimes, now 18, filed suit to dissolve her contract with Curb Records.

Attorney S. Bradley Rhorer of Baton Rouge, La., represents Wilbur Rimes in this most recent action. LREI is represented by G. Tomas Rhodus of Dallas.