Ex-Take That star drops legal case

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The pop star Robbie Williams, who last year left the recently disbanded group Take That, was left facing six-figure costs yesterday after climbing down at the eleventh hour from his High Court bid to break free from his record company, RCA.

In an agreement reached between RCA and lawyers for Williams just hours before yesterday's hearing, the singer dropped his case and apologised for taking legal action against his employers.

BMG Records, the German company that owns RCA, said in a statement: "Robbie Williams has announced that he has dropped his court case against BMG Records (UK) Limited. Judgment by consent has been entered in favour of BMG by the High Court today, as a result of which the action has been dismissed with costs awarded in favour of BMG.

"In dropping the case Robbie said, `I am extremely sorry that I ever brought this case and I now fully accept the validity and enforceability of my BMG recording contract. I remain a BMG artist'."

The record company also said that Mr Williams had dropped his objections to the release of Take That's greatest hits album, which he last week threatened to veto. The album will now be released on 26 March and is expected to earn the 22-year-old pounds 500,000. Take That's final single, a cover of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love?" was released yesterday and is expected to reach number one in the charts.

John Preston, chairman of BMG, said in a statement: "We are delighted that Robbie has accepted the validity of our contract. It is a shame that Robbie didn't come and talk to us before he started litigation. We still want the best for him and all the other members of Take That."

Williams disappointed many of his fans by not attending yesterday's two-minute hearing. "We are all so disappointed that Robbie was not here," said 16-year-old Amanda Colton, of east London, who had waited since 3.30am outside the High Court in the Strand. "It was freezing last night. But it would have been worth it."

Chris Poole, Williams's agent, released a statement saying that Williams was very pleased with the outcome of the case and intended to go on holiday immediately as "he would much prefer to be spending the next two weeks in the sun rather than in court".

The possibility remains that Williams could "do a George Michael". The former Wham! singer-songwriter lost a pounds 7m High Court bid for freedom from his record company, Sony, in 1994. The following year Virgin, with Steven Spielberg's studio, Dreamworks, bought out the singer's contract in a deal worth pounds 30m to the Japanese entertainment giant.

n Singer-songwriter Paul Weller, former vocalist and lead guitarist with The Jam, was yesterday sued for more than pounds 100,000 by his former co-musicians in a wrangle over royalties. Drummer Rick Buckler, now a furniture restorer, and bass guitarist Bruce Foxton, a session musician, are taking action against Weller and his father John, who acted as the group's manager. The case continues tomorrow.