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Suit Says Rimes' Father, Others Mismanaged Her Career
It is a view presented entirely from one side, of course, but the recent lawsuit filed on LeAnn Rimes' behalf against her father, Wilbur, and her former manager, Lyle Walker, tells the tale of a young superstar's fortune being systematically pillaged and her best interests betrayed.

The suit accuses the two men of "fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, gross mismanagement and dereliction of management duties and responsibilities."

The pot of gold the elder Rimes and Walker dipped into, according to the May 2 complaint to the Dallas County (Texas) District Court, was LeAnn Rimes Entertainment, Inc. (LREI), an organization set up to collect, invest and disburse the millions pouring in from concerts, record and merchandise sales and other sources. Walker, who is a lawyer, established LREI in 1995, and Wilbur Rimes served as its president until January of this year.

Walker met the Rimes family in 1994 in his capacity as owner of the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, N.M. It was here that LeAnn recorded the album that would help secure her a contract the following year with Curb Records. Curb paid LREI $170,000 at the time of the signing.

Within a month of LeAnn's joining the label, Walker became her manager. The management contract specified, among other things, that Walker's law firm would be retained as LREI's general counsel and be paid 10 percent of LREI's net revenues for Walker's services as manager.

Boiling under all the current legal jousting, the suit reveals, is the fact that Wilbur Rimes began a very public affair with another woman in 1996, for whom he soon left LeAnn's mother, Belinda. The Rimes were divorced in 1997. (Because LeAnn is now 17 and still a minor, it was her mother who engineered the present suit.)

The complaint charges that Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker not only paid themselves far too much for the services they rendered to LeAnn but that they also acted in ways that harmed her career.

Also listed as a defendant is Lyle Walker's son, Layne, who once ran LeAnn's fan club for pay and who, additionally, sold LREI a large life insurance policy on the artist.

Wilbur Rimes' new romantic interest in 1996 was, according to the complaint, Catherine "Cat" Dickenson, whose family controlled a coach company called The Kingsley Coach, Inc. In 1997, Rimes bought three Kingsley coaches for himself, financed by a loan LREI guaranteed. He then leased the coaches to LREI for LeAnn and her entourage to use as tour buses. The lease called for LREI to pay Rimes $4000 a month for the use of each coach.

The complaint alleges that the coaches were "essentially trucks" and not "buses suitable for long trips with passengers." It further says that LREI didn't provide LeAnn with a "comfortable bus" until 1998, when she threatened to quit touring. Rimes and Dickenson used one of the three coaches as their own, the complaint says, when they were on the road with LeAnn.

"Eventually," the charge continues, "the pressure created by the presence of 'Cat' Dickenson, and Wilbur Rimes' mental torture, caused Belinda Rimes to return to Dallas [from Nashville]. Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker sought steps to force Belinda Rimes into filing for a divorce, and to coerce Belinda into agreeing to a quick settlement of the divorce proceeding, by telling Belinda and LeAnn that a protracted divorce proceeding would have a disastrous effect on [her] career. [They] took advantage of the fact that they were constantly in LeAnn's presence to alienate [her] from her mother . . . by continually telling LeAnn her mother was 'very sick,' and that 'going to court' would 'ruin' LeAnn's career."

While the divorce was proceeding, the complaint says, Walker raised his management fee from 10 percent to 15 percent of LREI's "net monies." At the same time, Wilbur Rimes signed on as LeAnn's official record producer, a position that entitled him to around 31 percent -- or four of the 13 points -- Curb was contracted to pay in record royalties. Of his four points, the agreement specified that Rimes would pay one point to Walker's Norman Petty Studios. And since he had no experience as a producer, Rimes would also be obliged to pay for the services of a real producer.

Another document executed at the time of the divorce directed LREI to pay Rimes five percent of the net proceeds it received from LeAnn's recordings and concerts and another five percent to Belinda Rimes until LeAnn turned 18.

In spite of LeAnn's mounting successes as a performer and recording artist, the complaint says, Rimes and Walker did not try to re-negotiate a more favorable contract with Curb Records. However, the suit continues, Curb Records' owner, Mike Curb, told LeAnn in 1999 that he had been willing to offer her a better contract but that her father and Walker had ignored his offer. The plaintiffs contend that this failure arose from their fear that such negotiation would call for a closer look at how LREI was spending its money.

The LeAnn Rimes Fan Club was set up as a part of LREI in 1996 and made into an incorporated subsidiary in 1998. From the club's founding through 1999, Lyle Walker's son, Layne, served as its manager. He was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for his work, the suit alleges.

Yet another charge the complaint lodges against Rimes and Walker is that they used LREI's resources -- and sometimes LeAnn's own band -- to promote new Curb artist Steve Holy.

Other allegations in the complaint are that Wilbur Rimes took no-interest loans from LREI; that Rimes and Walker used LREI money to settle lawsuits they had incurred; that Layne Walker was paid "tens of thousands of dollars in commissions" for insurance policies he sold on LeAnn's life while he was simultaneously managing her fan club; and that Rimes and Walker have failed to account for the substantial cash income generated by LeAnn's live performances.

Ultimately, the suit says, LREI was paying Rimes and Walker a total of 30 percent of its net income -- 15 percent each -- for their services as co-managers. "An artist of LeAnn Rimes' stature," the complaint asserts, "should only have to pay 10 percent, or less, for competent management services." The complaint concludes that with his management, producer and divorce-agreement percentages from LREI, Rimes was "triple dipping."

In summary, the complaint says, "Of all the recording royalties and advances distributed by LREI between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1999, Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker have received more than $8 million. Less than $3 million of the recording royalties . . . has been paid to LeAnn or invested for her benefit during this same period . . . All totalled, Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker have received in excess of $14 million, while less than $5 million has been paid to LeAnn, or invested for her benefit."

In December, 1999, Belinda Rimes began court proceedings that eventually enabled her to wrest control of LeAnn's finances from Wilbur Rimes, dismiss Walker as co-manager and secure new management for the young artist.

The complaint calculates that LeAnn Rimes is due more than $7 million in actual damages from her father and Walker and that she is entitled to four times that amount in exemplary damages. One of the properties cited in the suit as a potential source of compensation is Wilbur Rimes' ranch in Lebanon, Tenn., where he raises cutting horses and lives with his current wife, the former Miss Dickenson.

While it is not a part of the complaint, LeAnn's lawyer issued this statement: "LeAnn loves both her mother and her father very much. This is a very difficult matter for all concerned. We are hoping that this lawsuit, filed by Belinda on behalf of her daughter LeAnn, will be resolved in an expedient manner."

It is a view presented entirely from one side, of course, but the recent lawsuit filed on LeAnn Rimes' behalf against her father, Wilbur, and her former manager, Lyle Walker, tells the tale of a young superstar's fortune being systematically pillaged and her best interests betrayed.

The suit accuses the two men of "fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, gross mismanagement and dereliction of management duties and responsibilities."

The pot of gold the elder Rimes and Walker dipped into, according to the May 2 complaint to the Dallas County (Texas) District Court, was LeAnn Rimes Entertainment, Inc. (LREI), an organization set up to collect, invest and disburse the millions pouring in from concerts, record and merchandise sales and other sources. Walker, who is a lawyer, established LREI in 1995, and Wilbur Rimes served as its president until January of this year.

Walker met the Rimes family in 1994 in his capacity as owner of the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, N.M. It was here that LeAnn recorded the album that would help secure her a contract the following year with Curb Records. Curb paid LREI $170,000 at the time of the signing.

Within a month of LeAnn's joining the label, Walker became her manager. The management contract specified, among other things, that Walker's law firm would be retained as LREI's general counsel and be paid 10 percent of LREI's net revenues for Walker's services as manager.

Boiling under all the current legal jousting, the suit reveals, is the fact that Wilbur Rimes began a very public affair with another woman in 1996, for whom he soon left LeAnn's mother, Belinda. The Rimes were divorced in 1997. (Because LeAnn is now 17 and still a minor, it was her mother who engineered the present suit.)

The complaint charges that Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker not only paid themselves far too much for the services they rendered to LeAnn but that they also acted in ways that harmed her career.

Also listed as a defendant is Lyle Walker's son, Layne, who once ran LeAnn's fan club for pay and who, additionally, sold LREI a large life insurance policy on the artist.

Wilbur Rimes' new romantic interest in 1996 was, according to the complaint, Catherine "Cat" Dickenson, whose family controlled a coach company called The Kingsley Coach, Inc. In 1997, Rimes bought three Kingsley coaches for himself, financed by a loan LREI guaranteed. He then leased the coaches to LREI for LeAnn and her entourage to use as tour buses. The lease called for LREI to pay Rimes $4000 a month for the use of each coach.

The complaint alleges that the coaches were "essentially trucks" and not "buses suitable for long trips with passengers." It further says that LREI didn't provide LeAnn with a "comfortable bus" until 1998, when she threatened to quit touring. Rimes and Dickenson used one of the three coaches as their own, the complaint says, when they were on the road with LeAnn.

"Eventually," the charge continues, "the pressure created by the presence of 'Cat' Dickenson, and Wilbur Rimes' mental torture, caused Belinda Rimes to return to Dallas [from Nashville]. Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker sought steps to force Belinda Rimes into filing for a divorce, and to coerce Belinda into agreeing to a quick settlement of the divorce proceeding, by telling Belinda and LeAnn that a protracted divorce proceeding would have a disastrous effect on [her] career. [They] took advantage of the fact that they were constantly in LeAnn's presence to alienate [her] from her mother . . . by continually telling LeAnn her mother was 'very sick,' and that 'going to court' would 'ruin' LeAnn's career."

While the divorce was proceeding, the complaint says, Walker raised his management fee from 10 percent to 15 percent of LREI's "net monies." At the same time, Wilbur Rimes signed on as LeAnn's official record producer, a position that entitled him to around 31 percent -- or four of the 13 points -- Curb was contracted to pay in record royalties. Of his four points, the agreement specified that Rimes would pay one point to Walker's Norman Petty Studios. And since he had no experience as a producer, Rimes would also be obliged to pay for the services of a real producer.

Another document executed at the time of the divorce directed LREI to pay Rimes five percent of the net proceeds it received from LeAnn's recordings and concerts and another five percent to Belinda Rimes until LeAnn turned 18.

In spite of LeAnn's mounting successes as a performer and recording artist, the complaint says, Rimes and Walker did not try to re-negotiate a more favorable contract with Curb Records. However, the suit continues, Curb Records' owner, Mike Curb, told LeAnn in 1999 that he had been willing to offer her a better contract but that her father and Walker had ignored his offer. The plaintiffs contend that this failure arose from their fear that such negotiation would call for a closer look at how LREI was spending its money.

The LeAnn Rimes Fan Club was set up as a part of LREI in 1996 and made into an incorporated subsidiary in 1998. From the club's founding through 1999, Lyle Walker's son, Layne, served as its manager. He was paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for his work, the suit alleges.

Yet another charge the complaint lodges against Rimes and Walker is that they used LREI's resources -- and sometimes LeAnn's own band -- to promote new Curb artist Steve Holy.

Other allegations in the complaint are that Wilbur Rimes took no-interest loans from LREI; that Rimes and Walker used LREI money to settle lawsuits they had incurred; that Layne Walker was paid "tens of thousands of dollars in commissions" for insurance policies he sold on LeAnn's life while he was simultaneously managing her fan club; and that Rimes and Walker have failed to account for the substantial cash income generated by LeAnn's live performances.

Ultimately, the suit says, LREI was paying Rimes and Walker a total of 30 percent of its net income -- 15 percent each -- for their services as co-managers. "An artist of LeAnn Rimes' stature," the complaint asserts, "should only have to pay 10 percent, or less, for competent management services." The complaint concludes that with his management, producer and divorce-agreement percentages from LREI, Rimes was "triple dipping."

In summary, the complaint says, "Of all the recording royalties and advances distributed by LREI between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1999, Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker have received more than $8 million. Less than $3 million of the recording royalties . . . has been paid to LeAnn or invested for her benefit during this same period . . . All totalled, Wilbur Rimes and Lyle Walker have received in excess of $14 million, while less than $5 million has been paid to LeAnn, or invested for her benefit."

In December, 1999, Belinda Rimes began court proceedings that eventually enabled her to wrest control of LeAnn's finances from Wilbur Rimes, dismiss Walker as co-manager and secure new management for the young artist.

The complaint calculates that LeAnn Rimes is due more than $7 million in actual damages from her father and Walker and that she is entitled to four times that amount in exemplary damages. One of the properties cited in the suit as a potential source of compensation is Wilbur Rimes' ranch in Lebanon, Tenn., where he raises cutting horses and lives with his current wife, the former Miss Dickenson.

While it is not a part of the complaint, LeAnn's lawyer issued this statement: "LeAnn loves both her mother and her father very much. This is a very difficult matter for all concerned. We are hoping that this lawsuit, filed by Belinda on behalf of her daughter LeAnn, will be resolved in an expedient manner."
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