QUEENSRŸCHE members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Parker Lundgren announced on June 20 that they were parting ways with singer Geoff Tate and recruiting powerhouse vocalist Todd La Torre of CRIMSON GLORY as his replacement. The new QUEENSRŸCHE lineup has already performed live, having played two shows in their home city of Seattle under the name RISING WEST.
In a recent interview with RollingStone.com, Tate revealed that he filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates on June 12 in King County Superior Court in the state of Washington in order to "sort out who is what, and who owns what, and that stuff." Tate is also attempting to get a court injunction against Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield that would prevent them from using the name QUEENSRŸCHE for their new group.
On Monday, July 9, Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield filed a response to Tate's motion for preliminary injunction and included declarations from all of the defendants supporting their position that Tate's motion should be denied. As one would expect, these documents — copies of which have been obtained by BLABBERMOUTH.NET — contain startling details about the circumstances that led to the split between the singer and his one-time friends and longtime bandmates.
Several excerpts from Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield's response to Tate's complaint follow below.
"Plaintiff Geoff Tate, along with his wife, have brought suit against his former bandmates, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton, and the corporations they do business against, claiming that he is being oppressed. He now comes before this Court asking for a preliminary injunction stopping a majority of the band and shareholders from operating as the band they have been known as for 30 years. Not only is there no oppression, and all decisions were done for legitimate business reasons, but the facts will show that the only person engaging in oppression is Mr. Tate.
"Plaintiff Geoff Tate has systematically, in concert with his wife whom he installed as manager, taken more power unto himself within the band and its companies, shutting out the majority with a policy of ultimatums and brinksmanship, while engaging in naked self dealing. When his bandmates, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton finally said enough is enough and tried to move on to outside management, Mr. Tate reacted with a violent physical assault, leaving them no choice but to obtain a new singer. Mr. Tate has now followed with a combined legal and public relations assault in breach of his duties to the very corporations he claims his bandmates are harming. As such, the only oppressor here is Mr. Tate, and his ultimate claims, along with this motion for preliminary relief, fail.
"During this period of the late 1990s into the early 2000s, Susan Tate, Geoff Tate's wife, began her ascent to the ultimate management of the band. Susan Tate first began running the fan club and merchandising portions of the QUEENSRŸCHE operation. She then was instrumental in the firing of then current manager, Ray Daniels, and having him replaced with Lars Sorenson, to whom she then served as assistant. Then, in 2005, she took over management duties completely and Lars Sorenson was let go. This is quite an accomplishment since Susan Tate's only prior management experience was managing her previous husband's unsigned local band.
"Once Susan Tate was installed as manager, the Tates proceeded to take full control of the band. Geoff Tate began working with outside writers and regularly rejecting music offered by the band. Geoff and Susan Tate asserted full control over the budgeting and production process, not only cutting Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton out of the creative process, but eliminating songwriting royalties and manipulating all advances so as to coerce their cooperation. This was combined with constant threats from Geoff Tate to leave the band if his bandmates did not go along with his dictates. In an attempt to maintain what was left of the original membership and get what advance and other monies were available, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton went along with Geoff and Susan Tate's creative and business control of QUEENSRŸCHE. This is ironic as Geoff Tate has stated publicly on several occasions about his bandmates' integral role in the sound and overall makeup of QUEENSRŸCHE.
"The results of the Tates' stewardship of QUEENSRŸCHE have been disastrous. Under Tate leadership, QUEENSRŸCHE has produced three albums to wildly declining sales. 'Operation: Mindcrime II' has sold only 150,000 copies to date, compared to 500,000 for the original 'Operation: Mindcrime' in the first year alone, moving on to over a million a few years later. It also received only mediocre reviews. The next album, 'American Soldier', sold only 60,000 copies, less than half again. And last year's 'Dedicated To Chaos', sold an abysmal 20,000 copies. In addition, Geoff Tate has shown an almost messianic dedication to these ill-received songs and musical direction. He openly loathes the metal sound that made the band famous, even saying so to the press. Geoff Tate even refuses to perform the bulk of the songs from the first five, and most popular, albums, considering them 'stupid,' his refusal coming in the face of overwhelming fan demand.
"Although QUEENSRŸCHE has continued as a viable entity, the decline of recent years is evident in album sales and overall revenue. As a result, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton, who own 75% of the stock in the QUEENSRŸCHE entities and are three of four directors, decided in 2012 to take a more active role in the direction of the band entities.
"First, they looked into using outside professionals to run the fan club and merchandise as opposed to an in-house operation run by Susan Tate and Geoff's stepdaughter Miranda Tate. This was met with fierce resistance and even abuse of the outside firm being considered by Geoff and Susan Tate. Next the issue of outside professional management was suggested by Michael Wilton. This was met with even stronger resistance, with Geoff Tate dismissing the idea out of hand.
"During this time, the other bandmembers learned through Scott Rockenfield that Geoff Tate had negotiated a development deal for a movie based on QUEENSRŸCHE's popularconcept album, 'Operation: Mindcrime'. Scott Rockenfield received an e-mail from a mutual acquaintance who was part of the deal who explained how Geoff Tate was about to engage in a lucrative agreement. When Scott Rockenfield informed Eddie Jackson and Michael Wilton of this, they investigated with the QUEENSRŸCHE corporate attorney and confirmed that a six-figure advance was indeed being held by him until execution of documents by Geoff Tate, at which time the money would be paid to Geoff Tate alone. This is despite ownership of 'Operation: Mindcrime' and associated intellectual property by the QUEENSRŸCHE entities and former member Chris DeGarmo.
"Due to this litigation, the other bandmates (Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton) have now come into possession of the agreement executed by Geoff Tate for this movie option. Amazingly, and with no grant of authority from the band, Geoff Tate claimed full ownership in the 'Operation: Mindcrime' 'story,' procuring for himself a $150,000 fee, 20% of all royalties, and $10,000 upfront for an option, all payable to him alone, and with 20% for soundtrack and merchandise revenue to be split amongst him and the band.
"Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton were not to be deterred and set a directors meeting to discuss changes. Not only did Geoff Tate refuse to attend, he responded through legal counsel, demanding that Susan Tate and his attorney be present, that the meeting be rescheduled, and claiming that meeting notice via e-mail was inadequate. This was surprising to the other bandmates as all meetings had been set by e-mail or text for years, and even more shocking that Geoff Tate was speaking through an attorney about a meeting of their band of 30+ years. Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton had their properly called meeting anyway, and being a quorum and a majority, voted to remove Susan Tate as manager, move on to a professional outside merchandise company, and other related business. The next day, all band members flew to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a previously scheduled performance. Several hours before the concert, Geoff Tate called for a meeting wherein he asked for confirmation of actions taken at the April 12, 2012 meeting. Geoff Tate also raised the issue of the 'Operation: Mindcrime' movie project advance, complaining bitterly that the other band members were holding up 'his money.' Following the meeting, the other bandmembers did not see Geoff Tate until on stage just before the beginning of their performance. Geoff Tate then viciously engaged in an unprovoked attack on Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton, and was only kept from Eddie Jackson due to the intervention of crew and security. These attacks were totally unprovoked and unjustified. This delayed the start of the performance over 20 minutes, and Geoff Tate continued to spit at, curse, and taunt his bandmates throughout the performance. The other bandmembers left immediately after the performance, avoiding Geoff Tate, who was flown home on a hastily booked separate flight. Following the Sao Paulo incident, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton knew of two contracted performances. The decision was made to attempt to be professional and carry out these obligations, and see if it was still possible for them to work with Geoff Tate. Unfortunately, Geoff Tate never apologized for his actions, continued to make threats, and engaged in erratic and bizarre behavior, even telling the audience they 'sucked' at the last performance. As a result, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton decided they had no choice but to move on. Although as a clear majority and quorum they had the ability to make this difficult decision for the good of the band on their own, they attempted to reach out and negotiate a settlement. This was flatly rejected by Geoff Tate. Thus, in a duly noticed meeting on June 2, 2012, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton voted to replace Geoff Tate with a new lead singer, and to expel and/or otherwise negotiate just compensation for his ownership interest. Negotiations failed, leading to the suit at bar.
"Following Geoff Tate's removal as lead singer, QUEENSRŸCHE performed under the moniker 'RISING WEST' for two sold-out shows and rave critical and fan reviews. On the strength of those shows, the new QUEENSRŸCHE has been signed by Frontline/AGPS Management, the largest and most powerful music management company in the world and a subsidiary of Live Nation. Within the first week, the new management was able to obtain three bookings at equal or better compensation than the old QUEENSRŸCHE. With the new QUEENSRŸCHE's dedication to the original five gold- and platinum-selling albums, and new material in the same vein, the demand has been tremendous. Conservatively, the new QUEENSRŸCHE could book over $4 million in gross tour revenue alone between now and the trial date in this matter, with commensurate surges in merchandise and back catalog sales.
"Geoff Tate, on the other hand, has taken to the press to denigrate his bandmates and their abilities, as well as tar them with labels of ineptitude and greed. Further, although Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, and Michael Wilton are the rightful current controllers of the QUEENSRŸCHE entities and their assets, Geoff, Susan and Miranda Tate have locked them out of the official QUEENSRŸCHE Facebook account and band website, causing harm not only to the reputation of the band, but blocking revenue through sales on the QUEENRYCHE website.
"Geoff Tate's Motion for Preliminary Injunction is based on the presumption that he will ultimately be awarded the name 'QUEENSRŸCHE.' The only way this can occur is if the court grants a judicial dissolution of the QUEENSRŸCHE companies.
"For the reasons discussed below, Geoff Tate cannot reach this high and extraordinary burden. Not only were Eddie Jackson's, Scott Rockenfield's and Michael Wilton's actions nonoppressive, justified, and legitimate business actions, but the extreme remedy of dissolution is not warranted. The only purpose of dissolution would be to make the name 'QUEENSRŸCHE' able to be awarded to Geoff Tate, effectively giving a minority member and only 25% owner full and total control of the corporation's most valuable asset, with no precedent for such an action.
"Geoff Tate claims he had a reasonable expectation to remain in QUEENSRŸCHE forever, and, thus, is being oppressed by his bandmates' actions. However, such a belief is belied by the entity documents themselves. First, there is the Partnership Agreement, which is the only document that contemplates band membership and predates the creation of all the QUEENSRŸCHE entities. Far from this document being designed around an idea of permanent membership, it expressly has an expulsion clause allowing 75% of the partners to expel a member, and buyout procedures following such an expulsion. Even if this partnership agreement were deemed to have no legal effect, it still is illustrative of the reasonable expectations the members of the band had.
"Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton readily admit that Geoff Tate has shares in the QUEENSRŸCHE entities and is entitled to compensation. They even admit that if that amount of compensation cannot be negotiated, it may be for the Court to decide the proper amount. Thus any 'oppression' claimed by Geoff Tate results not from the disposition of his shares (since he is also asking the Court to establish a value for the shares so everyone is fairly compensated), it only comes from his removal as lead singer, which is in effect a termination of employment, an activity squarely within the authority of the directors to control.
"There are an abundance of legitimate reasons for the decision to replace Geoff Tate. The musical direction he has taken the band has led to a precipitous drop in album sales. Geoff Tate refuses to perform the bulk of the songs which made the band popular, nor produce music in that style. He surreptitiously attempted to obtain vast monies for an 'Operation: Mindcrime' movie for himself alone in an act of self dealing. Geoff Tate refused to take on new and professional management and operation of the merchandise and fan club, preferring his family serve in those roles and draw the salary from it. And, most important of all, when Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton tried to assert control and begin to reverse some of these bad business decisions, Geoff Tate engaged in a vicious, unprovoked physical assault for which he has shown no remorse until this proceeding. Geoff Tate then engaged in increasingly erratic behavior, threatening his bandmates and even lashing out at the audience. Not only was his removal a result of legitimate business concerns, but of outright business necessity!
"As discussed above, the only way Geoff Tate can be awarded the name QUEENSRŸCHE is through the harsh and extreme remedy of judicial dissolution of the QUEENSRŸCHE entities. Employment of such a drastic remedy is not only unwarranted due to the lack of oppression and legitimate business considerations discussed above, but it would not be fair and equitable, as such a remedy lies in equity.
"Geoff Tate's central claim for why he should get the name QUEENSRŸCHE is that it is the only 'equitable outcome' because 'he is the band.' As set forth in the declarations from Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton, QUEENSRŸCHE has always been a collaborative effort amongst its members, especially during its extremely successful first period. This has only changed during the last few unsuccessful albums, and due only to Geoff Tate's authoritarian ways. Moreover, Geoff Tate's odd reliance on songwriting royalties fails to recognize several other considerations. In fact, under Geoff Tate's logic, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were not really THE BEATLES, as the vast majority of the songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Geoff Tate is not even a founding member of the band, having come in after all the EP material that launched QUEENSRŸCHE was written. He has only ever written lyrics and no music, and not even all the lyrics at that. In addition, over the last three albums, Geoff Tate, in concert with wife and manager Susan, has conspired to lock out Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton from the creative process. Thus, any recent uptick in songwriting credits has been a result of the last three albums, which were marked by rapidly declining sales and fan response. And, the bulk of the band entities' revenue has come from touring and the ancillary merchandise and back catalog sales in recent years. Additionally, Geoff Tate, through his physical assault, outrageous, naked self-dealing on the 'Operation: Mindcrime' movie, and other activities detrimental to the corporation and brand, has unclean hands and cannot ask for equitable relief. Plus, his defaming of his fellow bandmates and denigrating of the band in RollingStone.com, and wrongful lockout of Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, and Michael Wilton from the QUEENSRŸCHE Facebook account and band websites, is in direct breach of his duties to the corporations themselves.
"On the other hand, the remaining members have a strong claim to the QUEENSRŸCHE name. As the original founding members of the band and a clear majority, they have the strongest claim. Moreover, Geoff Tate himself has acknowledged publicly the importance of QUEENSRŸCHE's popularity coming from its 'sound,' and how that sound originates with the musicians Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton. As Geoff Tate has never written any music for any QUEENSRŸCHE songs, this stands to reason. And . . . it is this sound, coupled by a willingness to return to it as it was in the first five albums, both in new and old material, which will let QUEENSRŸCHE succeed well beyond its current performance, something that cannot happen with Geoff Tate's refusal to embrace QUEENSRŸCHE's past.
"No preliminary injunction should be issued. Geoff Tate is not likely to succeed on the merits. He has not been oppressed, because his expectation to remain as QUEENSRŸCHE's lead singer forever is not reasonable. Geoff Tate's removal as lead singer was due to legitimate business considerations, including his takeover of the creative process to bad results, rejection of the popular parts of the music catalog, and his physical assault of his bandmates and subsequent erratic behavior. Judicial dissolution is an extreme remedy only undertaken in rare circumstances, and without judicial dissolution, Geoff Tate cannot be awarded the name QUEENSRŸCHE. And award of the name must be done through equity, and doing so would be the opposite. An injunction would not properly balance the harms among the band members, third parties, or the public. And, the bond for any injunction must be in the millions to adequately protect the potential loss.
"Geoff Tate needs to be compensated for his shares in the QUEENSRŸCHE entities, no one denies this. He also has a right to ask the Court to determine a fair amount if that cannot be done through negotiation. But, he does not have a right to take QUEENSRŸCHE's name for himself, nor to harm the brand, band and corporations for months by denying its use while this case is fully adjudicated on the merits. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion should be DENIED."