Phil Collins wins claim he overpaid musicians

Two musicians taken to court by Phil Collins over £500,000 in royalties will receive no more money from the British multi-millionaire after a High Court ruling yesterday.

Mr Justice Jonathan Parker said it was "highly regrettable" the matter could not have been settled before it reached court.

He halved the amount Collins was seeking but said Louis Satterfield and Rhamlee Davis, the American performers, would not have to repay any of it. Collins, who is said to be worth £105m and admits he has more than he will ever need, had not sought actualrepayment but wanted a declaration from the court that he could stop paying royalties.

Satterfield and Davis, who have returned to the United States because of "financial restrictions", were said to be "disappointed but not bitter". Satterfield, a trombonist, wished Collins well and told the judge to "keep his love light on".

They claimed they were entitled to royalties on all 15 tracks of an album recorded during Collins's 1990 Serious tour. But yesterday the judge ruled the men should have been paid for only the five tracks on which they performed, including "Sussudio".

Davis, 51, and Satterfield, 63, once part of the group Earth, Wind and Fire, said they were first approached by Collins in 1979, asking them to help him launch his solo career after he left Genesis. At the time they had no idea who he was but went on to play on some of his most successful hits.

Davis, who said during the court hearing that he had to pawn musical equipment, and Satterfield, who is thousands of dollars in rent arrears, worked with Collins in the 1980s, helping him to produce several successful albums including Face Value in 1981 and But Seriously in 1989. The two men received session and touring fees except for the royalties deal on the live record. In 1997 they received a letter from Phil Collins company saying they had been overpaid due to an accounting error and the money stopped.

They wrote to Collins asking for an explanation but received no reply. Yesterday the judge said: "So far as the claimant is concerned the manner in which it informed the defendants of its decision to cease paying them royalties was wholly unacceptable." After receiving the letter about the disputed royalties they brought an action against Collins in California, claiming they were entitled to full royalties and damages and accusing his company of being "fraudulent and malicious". The action was suspended and Collins was allowed to bring it in London after the American court ruled the contracts were signed under English law.

In his ruling yesterday the judge said Davis, although he had been honest, had "overstated his case . . . albeit unwittingly by his firmly held conviction that he had been treated most unfairly by the claimant".

But he added it was accepted on all sides that the Phenix Horns, the band founded by Satterfield and Davis, had made an important contribution to the success of the albums on which they performed and to the personal success of Collins.

During the case Davis said:"We were such an integral part of his career. The tunes we played on were hits, they sold albums, so it makes no difference if we played on all 15 [tracks]. We played on 'Sussudio' and that sold the whole album."

Satterfield said: "We made him [Collins] a star. We were already well-established ... when he asked us to record with him. I don't know why he is being so small-minded."

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