Robbie Williams risks pounds 1m bill

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THE POP STAR Robbie Williams could face a bill of more than pounds 1m if he loses the High Court battle he resumed yesterday against his former manager.

Williams, who won three Brit awards a fortnight ago, is appealing against an earlier High Court ruling that he must pay pounds 90,000 in commission to Nigel Martin-Smith, who was responsible for starting Take That, the phenomenally successful boy band that launched the singer's career. Costs, interest and VAT are expected to take the bill comfortably past the pounds 1m mark.

The original action was rooted in Williams's acrimonious split from Take That. He left in July 1995, calling his erstwhile colleagues "selfish, arrogant and thick". As part of his contract, however, he was obliged to retain Mr Martin-Smith for a six-month notice period until February 1996.

When the singer refused to pay commission after signing for a new record company, Mr Martin-Smith sued Williams for breach of contract.

Opening the appeal yesterday, Michael Silverleaf QC, described how Williams began to find the "very tight restrictions" imposed by Mr Martin-Smith on the band's lifestyle and activities "somewhat difficult.

"He began to go out to parties and enjoy himself," said Mr Silverleaf. "It became clear that Mr Williams ultimately wanted to leave the band ... He just didn't feel he could stick with the constraints that were being imposed."

Since leaving Take That, Williams has shrugged off alcohol and drug problems and gone on to produce two highly successful solo albums - Life Through a Lens and I've Been Expecting You.

The hearing continues today.