By George Matlock, editor
Eltons missing millions British High Court action about overseas touring costs closed February 1, 2001, and the verdict was on knife edge.
At the end of the hearing, Mr Justice Ferris reserved his decision, not expected for several weeks.
But not before John Reid, the equally flamboyant former Elton manager, had his stand in court. Mr Reid spoke of Eltons “incandescence” over media leaks, and of the snub over the ceremony which made Elton a “Sir”.
Mr Reid was giving evidence at Londons High Court on December 4, 2000, the 20th day of Eltons missing millions case brought against John Reid Enterprises (JRE) former managing director, Andrew Haydon, and the rockstars former accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Mr Reid, 51, who previously settled with Elton in a reportedly £3.4m out of court deal, told the court he agreed to appear for PwC after the accountants promised not to sue him if they lost the case to Elton, 53.
Elton alleges Haydon was negligent in allowing JRE to charge him most tour expenses. Eltons case is that the several millions which he paid out in touring expenses should have been borne by JRE under a revised and agreed management agreement. PwC are accused by Elton of negligence in managing his affairs. Both defendants are contesting vigorously. The case, which began Oct. 30, was expected to last eight weeks but overran.
Describing relations with Elton, Mr Reid said Elton exploded with rage when The Mirror newspaper published a letter from PwC exposing the singers spending exploits and warning him to cut back. Mr Reids personal and professional relationship with his boss crumbled after the publication of the figures in 1998, the court heard.
“He was incandescent with rage and he believed that someone from John Reid Enterprises had sold that information to the newspapers and told me in no uncertain terms to find out how it happened”, explained Mr Reid.
Mr Reid hit back in court, after sitting through Eltons own evidence on November 16, 2000, when Elton had accused Mr Reid of dishonesty and betrayal, citing that Mr Reid was somebody he trusted, but that hed been “caught with his hands in the till.” Elton was not in court to hear Mr Reids riposte.
“It wasnt until afterwards that we discovered it had been Benjamin Pell, who claims to have gotten the letter from the rubbish bins,” he said. Later, Mr Reid detailed how Elton had snubbed him by refusing him an invitation to his investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Mr Reid said in February 1998 he was on the same flight to Britain from Los Angeles as Elton, who was travelling to the Palace to be knighted. Mr Reid was returning to London to attend his mothers funeral.
“He didnt invite me to go with him, which upset me,” Mr Reid complained.
Although he later learnt of pop fanatic Pells claims in court, Elton already began to lose faith in Mr Reid.
After the knighthood ceremony, the gulf between the two men continued to widen even as Elton began a tour of Australia with Billy Joel. Mr Reid told the court: “Things by this time were really frosty and I had heard that Elton had been asking if people thought I was dishonest.”
Mr Reid added: “So I went to his suite and asked him … He said no, he didnt think I was dishonest, but he was concerned about where all his money was going and he had appointed KPMG to do an audit. I told him I was pleased he was doing that and if there was any discrepancy in our conduct, I was responsible – because I was responsible for the company.”
Mr Reid explained that he had made arrangements to fly back to the UK that day (March 18, 1998). “That was the last time I spoke to him and the last time I saw him,” Mr Reid said.
Around May 10, 1998, Elton and Mr Reid parted company with a £5m severance agreement. Since then Mr Reid has disposed of three of his properties in St Johns Wood, London, New York and St. Tropez for almost £10m in total.
Contradicting Eltons genteel version of the St. Tropez meeting at which Elton agreed more generous remuneration terms for JRE in 1984, Mr Reid said Elton had countless heated meetings with Mr Reid as they thrashed out a new management agreement.
The pair, who were lovers from 1970-75, also rowed over who was to pay for hiring tour promoters.
But several news reports in December 2000 vainly pointed to a victory for Elton: Reportedly, Andrew Haydons barrister Andrew Fletcher told the court Mr Reid had eventually backed down and agreed to pay for tour promoters, although he had no recollection of it. It remains an issue whether that was then written into the contract, but certainly undermines much of JREs protests about tour expense liability. But Eltons dispute includes producers, accountants, and other tour costs – not just promoters. Mr Reids lack of memory may also help Elton as the onus is on the defendants to disprove Eltons claims, not for Elton to prove them.
Earlier in the day, Mr Reid admitted under fierce questioning he had difficulty remembering details of his management agreements at that time because he had “serious” drug and booze problems. Elton and Mr Reid had helped each other through addiction to these vices. He also accepted he was often “volatile”, “foul-mouthed”, had in the past been violent and was “keen on money”.
Nevertheless, under cross-examination from Eltons QC, Gordon Pollock, Mr Reid contradicted Eltons earlier evidence, insisting they had an agreement that tour expenses would always be paid by Elton, leaving the verdict on knife edge.