Pop star's legal defeat could cost him pounds 1m

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ROBBIE WILLIAMS lost a protracted legal battle with his former manager yesterday, leaving the former Take That singer facing a pounds 1m bill.

The Court of Appeal rejected an application by Mr Williams, who won three Brit awards last month, to overturn a High Court ruling that he must pay pounds 90,000 in commission to Nigel Martin-Smith, the man who launched his career.

Legal costs, interest, VAT, possible damages and further commission payments will take the total bill for the dispute towards the pounds 1m mark.

The original action was brought after Mr Williams' acrimonious split from Take That in July 1995. Although no longer a member of the band, his contract obliged him to retain Mr Martin-Smith for a six-month notice period until February 1996. When the singer refused to pay commission after signing a new record deal, Mr Martin-Smith sued Mr Williams for breach of contract.

At the High Court in November 1997, Mr Justice Ferris ruled against Mr Williams, and yesterday Lords Justices Beldam, Roch and Mummery agreed with that decision.

Mr Martin-Smith said in a statement: "Robbie has now had two attempts at trying to persuade a court of law that I acted badly towards him."

IE Music, Mr Williams' management, also issued a statement, saying that his battle with his former manager was now "finished". It pointed out that the singer had agreed to waive pounds 450,000 of Take That royalties.

The court's decision, the company said, meant that Mr Martin-Smith was now entitled to commission on royalties Mr Williams had not received.