Celine Dion Loses $13 Million Lawsuit Against Former Agent Rob Prinz
Celine Dion has lost a $13 million lawsuit with former agent Rob Prinz of ICM Partners after being ordered to continue paying him commission for her $489 million touring contract which he negotiated. While Prinz was able to aid Dion in securing concerts and residency performances through 2026, Dion argued that his 1.5-3% commission was excessive, especially since she felt she had secured some concerts through her “superstar status.”
“This ruling leaves no doubt that Rob Prinz and ICM not only had a legally enforceable agreement to commission Ms. Dion’s AEG deal, but that, throughout her brilliant career, Rob represented her in an exemplary manner, culminating in an unprecedented touring and residency contract,” Rick Levy, general counsel for ICM Partners, said in a statement to Billboard.
Prinz has represented Dion since 1989, but before his death in 2016, worked with Dion’s former husband and manager René Angélil. Angélil had previously negotiated the commission that Prinz was paid, and the 1.5-3% commission structure he retained until getting fired had been approved by Angélil.
However, Dion thinks that Prinz took advantage of the situation.
“Because [Angélil] wasn’t here to stand up for me at the hearing, I feel like Mr. Prinz and ICM took advantage with their demands for money and revealing confidential information about my AEG deal,” Dion said. “I feel betrayed.”
About a year after Angélil’s death and three years after he retired as Dion’s manager, Dion’s finances were audited by accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, and the firm flagged the commission going to Prinz as “exorbitant.” Prinz was making minimums of $7,500 per Vegas show and $32,250 per touring date at the time, while Dion makes about $500,000 per Las Vegas residency performance and $1,075,000 per touring show.
“Dion wished to continue with Prinz as the agent, and wanted him to pursue new opportunities,” Dion’s attorney told Prinz at the time. “[But he was] paid enough on the [AEG] Agreement, and Dion would no longer pay him for concert performances that had come to her for decades because of her superstar status.”
Prinz refused to accept a reduction in commission, so Dion fired him. Prinz then filed a petition with the California Labor Commission, the state agency designated to settle artist-agent disputes. California Labor Commission attorney David Gurley then spent nine months drafting a decision about the case, in which he ruled against Dion. According to Gurley, his decision was largely made based on the fact that Dion had paid Prinz his rate for the first year and a half of his tour. However, he did note that Prinz used a method called “two phone call agenting” to secure Dion’s contract, which involves forcing two competing entertainment companies into a bidding war to find the maximum contract value. The practice is known for allowing agents to do less work for better commission, which many artists eventually regret paying.
Despite Gurley’s ruling, Dion refuses to give up, and plans to have the case adjudicated in the California Superior Court system.
“I have paid Mr. Prinz many millions of dollars over the years. And when this all started, my team made an extremely generous offer to pay him and ICM many more millions for years to come,” Dion told Billboard in a statement. “I’m not saying that Mr. Prinz did not do anything, but he’s taking much more credit for my career than he deserves. Mr. Prinz had never asked to be paid for 10 years for a few months’ work, and I never agreed to it.”
Entertainment litigator Ed McPherson, who is not involved with the case, added that he thinks that Gurley’s ruling was accurate because of Dion and Prinz’s contract.
“He’s the best lawyer at the commission and this decision comes down to the contract, which specified that Prinz be paid out over 10 years in monthly payments after each performance takes place,” said McPherson. “There are plenty of written agreements in this case, and oral agreements in between those written agreements, and it was pretty easy to tell what percentage commission Prinz was owed.”