It’s an all too common scenario that we’ve seen before. An American celebrity agrees to a live performance of some sorts (comedy, music, speaking engagement etc.) in Africa. He or she is compensated with an initial deposit fee or sometimes the entire amount. But, when the time comes to perform, the celebrity is nowhere to be found. The difference, however, is that these days, Africans in Africa, are finally linking up with lawyers in the U.S., filing a legal claim, and forcing the celebrity to pay back their monies owed.
Often, because of the bad publicity attached to the celebrity, these cases resolve outside of court. We are yet to see a case where an American celebrity denies having received the monies deposited by an African event promoter. A few, however, do blame their staff or management team and claim complete ignorance of the transaction that was brokered in their behalf.
In this instance, a Nigerian Media Company Zinni Media Concept Limited, owned by Donatus Okonkwo, has sued Floyd Mayweather for $2million for a breach of contract. Zinni claims they booked Mayweather for a fee of $375,000 to make five appearances in June 2017 in Nigeria and Ghana. As part of the deal, they paid an initial deposit fee of $210,000 to secure his appearance. He accepted their deposit, made a video promising he would be in Nigeria and Ghana for the agreed upon shows, but on the dates for his performances, he was a no-show. In spite of the no-show, they tried to reschedule a new date in December of 2017 and renegotiated an increase in the number of shows Mayweather would perform, among other things. Mayweather, through his representatives, agreed to the rescheduling. He also increased his fee to $550,000. All parties mutually agreed to the new terms. However, when the new dates for performances in December 2017, came, Mayweather, was, again, a no-show.
By the way, don’t be surprised by the dollar amounts brokered. It is no secret that Nigerian and other African promoters pay exorbitant fees to international celebrities (especially Americans) to perform in Africa. One reason given by American celebrities for demanding such exorbitant fees is that of safety concerns. So, you can have a celebrity that has not booked shows in a while in the U.S., and whose performance fee is, for example, $40,000.00, easily book a $250,000.00 gig in places like Nigeria, depending on how bad he or she is wanted. Fees indeed have ranged from $250,000 to a million, depending on the celeb. Also, often, in the dealmaking process, African promoters do not have entertainment lawyers involved so they often end up with bad deals and a lot of no-shows.
Folks here is the deal. If you are an African promoter looking to hire an American talent to perform in Africa, get an entertainment lawyer to help you negotiate the deal.
You have several options:
- Hire an American entertainment lawyer in the U.S., preferably of African heritage, who knows your entertainment market in Africa to help negotiate the deal with the American celebrity’s legal team and managers.
- Hire a local Nigerian/African entertainment lawyer who will then work with a local American entertainment law firm, preferably of African heritage, to help negotiate the deal in your behalf with the American celebrity and his or her legal team.
Why would you do this? You choose one of the options above because it gives you the African entertainment promoter better leverage, from a dealmaking standpoint, and you come out with better-negotiated fees and a decreased likelihood of the contract being breached. If the American celebrity breaches the contract, your American entertainment lawyer, of African heritage, can easily match to the nearest courthouse, to file a suit. The fact that the threat of a lawsuit (albeit unstated) hangs over the head of the American celebrity, makes him/her more likely to not take your money and do a no-show.
If you choose the current method that many African promoters currently use, you lose a lot of money, earn a bad reputation for failed shows, and your attorney fees to fix the problem is a lot more. If you hire an attorney to negotiate the deal, you are looking at roughly around $2,500-5,000, depending on the deal, to draw up a live performance agreement. In contrast, once you have to start chasing people for your money because they breached a contract and are a no-show, your case can cost anywhere from $60,000-$100,000 and above, pre-trial, i.e. before the case is even tried. So, prevention is always better than cure.
Where can you find African entertainment lawyers, visit the Nigerian Entertainment Lawyers (NEL) group and fan page to find a lawyer in the U.S., Nigeria, Canada, or UK. Disclaimer: I am the founder of NEL.
See links to prior similar cases discussed here on AML below.
See the civil cover sheet and proposed summons filed in federal court in Southern California by attorneys in behalf of Zinni Media Concepts.
Archived cases I have discussed on this topic:
Some of Our Achievements
Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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