Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent. (Photo: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.com)
50 Cent, the actor, businessman and rapper known for songs like “I Get Money,” secured a $14.5 million settlement from Garvey Schubert Barer (GSB), according to court documents filed last week in U.S. bankruptcy court in Connecticut. The award will help him pay his creditors and end a bankruptcy proceeding he initiated last year.
50 Cent, whose legal name is Curtis Jackson III, burst onto the music scene in 2003 with his “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” album. He sued GSB last year for $75 million, accusing the firm of malpractice by not adequately representing him in business negotiations and in an arbitration proceeding with earphone manufacturer Sleek Audio LLC.
The complaint against GSB, filed in October 2015, alleged that the firm did not perform adequate due diligence on Sleek when Jackson invested in the Bradenton, Florida-based company as part of an agreement in which it would develop and market a line of headphones called “Sleek by 50.”
Though Jackson invested more than $2 million in Sleek, the company allegedly missed multiple deadlines in the development of the headphones, according to his complaint. Jackson sought to develop another line of headphones, which GSB lawyers allegedly advised would not infringe on the intellectual property rights of the Sleek product, the complaint said.
Headphones are a big deal to some rappers. Hip hop mogul Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre, co-produced Jackson’s 2003 debut album and made a windfall from the $3 billion sale in 2014 of Beats Electronics LLC to Apple Inc. Jackson has also made his own savvy investments. The Queens, New York-born rapper agreed in 2004 to begin promoting GlacÉau VitaminWater, a deal that reportedly yielded him a $100 million payout three years later when the brand was sold for $4.2 billion in cash to The Coca-Cola Co.
When Sleek did pursue IP claims against 50 Cent, lawyers from GSB continued to advise the rapper. Jackson’s complaint against GSB alleged multiple issues with the firm’s representation in a Florida arbitration with Sleek, which landed the company a $16.2 million award from its former business partner. GSB partners R. Bruce Beckner and Paul Trinchero, as well as of counsel Je Jun Moon, represented Jackson in the arbitration, while GSB partner Hillary Hughes handled his business deal with Sleek. (Hughes and Trinchero remain with GSB, while Moon is now of counsel at New York’s Cullen and Beckner has retired, according to The District of Columbia Bar.)
In his litigation with GSB, Jackson was represented by Robins Kaplan litigation partner Craig Weiner and associates Carly Kessler, Michael Kolcun and Ofer Reger. Weiner and Reger joined Robins Kaplan’s New York office in 2014 from dissolving Hofheimer Gartlir & Gross. GSB was represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler’s law firm defense practice chair Frederick Warder III and litigation counsel Jonathan Hatch. Warder referred a request for comment to a GSB spokesman.
Jackson filed for Chapter 11 protection last year in Connecticut after being sued for releasing the sex tape of a woman without her permission. Weiner said this settlement represents more than half of what the rapper owes his creditors.
“We are informed that these proceeds, together with other funds contributed by Mr. Jackson should position the estate to provide for the remaining obligations to be satisfied in connection with this successful Chapter 11 reorganization plan,” Weiner said in a statement.
In an interview Tuesday, Weiner said he calls Jackson by his other nickname, Fiddy, adding that he expects his client to emerge from bankruptcy “very shortly.”
In the malpractice settlement, neither party admitted to wrongdoing and both agreed not to disparage each other. That could be why the rapper revised an Instagram post dissing his former lawyers. The post shows a photoshopped image of Jackson sitting on a wallet full of money.
In its own statement, GSB said through a spokesman that it is common for parties to settle in the face of uncertain costs.
“In this case, through mediation, we reached an agreement that resolves our differences of opinion and enables both parties to move on,” the firm said. When asked how GSB would account for its costs, a spokesman noted that “like most firms, GSB maintains sufficient insurance to cover a settlement of this type.”