David Cassidy, who rose to fame on "The Partridge Family" TV show and became a bestselling singer, claims Screen Gems and Sony "swindled" him out of "tens of millions of dollars" for decades of royalties from the show, his records, and merchandising spinoffs.
Cassidy sued Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Television, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and CPT Holdings, in Los Angeles Superior Court. All four defendants are referred to as "the Studio" in the complaint.
Cassidy claims that after entering a 1969 contract with the Studio as a minor, after which the TV show became a hit, he renegotiated the contract in 1971.
"For nearly 40 years, defendants have swindled Mr. Cassidy out of his rightful share of proceeds from 'The Partridge Family,'" the complaint states. "And, when Mr. Cassidy has inquired as to the matter, have lied to him so as to continue to conceal their deception and continue to avoid their obligation to pay Mr. Cassidy his fair share of those monies owed him pursuant to the 1971 contract.
"Published reports indicate the Studio made 'about 500 million dollars' in licensing revenue for the merchandise alone, for which defendants have only paid Mr. Cassidy a paltry sum, and have repeatedly and fraudulently misrepresented to him that he is owed nothing more."
The 1971 contract, the complaint states, "promised to pay Mr. Cassidy not only 15 percent of the net proceeds of all merchandise involving the use of his name, voice and/or likeness and sponsor identification rights (see paragraph 9 of the 1971 contract), but also 7.5 percent of the net proceeds derived from the exhibition of the show and the exploitation of the underlying property rights ('Underlying Rights') upon which the show was based, including all other merchandise (see paragraph 3 of the 1971 contract). The Studio also promised Mr. Cassidy financial participation in all spinoffs from 'The Partridge Family.'"
Cassidy says contract obligated the Studio to provide him with accountings and reports, but "the Studio has either never provided such accountings and reports, or provided such accountings and reports only begrudgingly, inconsistently, inaccurately and fraudulently. ... And yet, despite Mr. Cassidy's repeated requests for this information, defendants did not, and will not, provide this information to Mr. Cassidy, even now."
He claims the Studio "engaged in a pattern of concealment with regard to these financial issues since the 1970s, when the show was still on the air."
He claims that a January 1973 letter from an agent of the Studio, Robert Lust, "acknowledged Mr. Cassidy had not been adequately compensated in regards to 'The Partridge Family' merchandise and indicated Mr. Cassidy would be fully compensated as part of the next regularly scheduled royalty statement. The letter falsely indicated that Mr. Cassidy was only owed monies in relation to the sale of a thermos and a payment from a marketing company, and no other merchandise was mentioned. Interestingly, the thermos was inside the number #1 best selling lunchbox of its time. This iconic 'Partridge Family' lunchbox now has its rightful place in our country's Smithsonian Institute."
As recently as May this year, the complaint states, the defendants "falsely informed Mr. Cassidy that he has no interest in 'The Partridge Family' merchandise, but only in merchandise utilizing his name, likeness, or voice. The letter further falsely stated that all merchandising monies owed to Mr. Cassidy were accounted for and paid to him in the 1970s (the 'July 20, 2011 Letter'). The letter obviously constituting just another attempt by defendants to swindle Mr. Cassidy."
Cassidy claims that in that letter, the defendants "acknowledged that their right to license or utilize Mr. Cassidy's name, likeness and voice expired n the 1970s - and yet, defendants released seasons 1 through 4 of 'The Partridge Family' on DVD relatively recently, and all of those DVDs are packaged bearing Mr. Cassidy's image."
Cassidy says the defendants owe him nearly 40 years of royalties, including 15 percent of net proceeds from merchandise using his name, voice and/or likeness, 7.5 percent of net proceeds from merchandise exploiting his underlying rights in the show, 7.5 percent of revenue from the show, and 5 percent of revenue from spinoffs. "Based on the reported revenue for the merchandise alone, defendants owe Mr. Cassidy in excess of tens of millions of dollars."
To make things perfectly clear, Cassidy says he "has reason to believe, and does reasonably believe, that defendants have been perpetrating a scam; that he has been deceived by defendants' fraudulent scheme, intentionally designed for the sole purpose of defrauding him; that defendants have gone to, and will continue to go to, any and all lengths necessary, no matter how despicable, to avoid upholding their end of the 1971 contract."
"The Partridge Family" ran from 1970 to 1974, then repeatedly in syndication. The complaint claims that it "was the first globally marketed and merchandised show of its kind."
Cassidy played the oldest son, Keith, who was lead singer of the family band. He became a teen heartthrob and, according to the complaint, received 30,000 fan letters a week, "reportedly having the largest fan club in the world in its day, surpassing even Elvis Presley and The Beatles. ... There were 'Partridge Family' board games, magazines, coloring books, paperback books, posters, pillow cases, toy guitars, dolls, lunch boxes, beach towels, pencil cases, comic books, and a line of children's clothing, not to mention music sales."
Cassidy, 61, continues to perform. He appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" this year.