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Journey bust up results in $10 million lawsuit

By | Published on Thursday 5 March 2020


A bust up between members of the most recent incarnation of Journey has resulted in two members being kicked out of the group and a $10 million lawsuit.

The dispute sees bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith on one side, and guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain on the other. Both Valory and Schon were original members of the band, and all four were part of the line-up for the outfit’s biggest record of them all, 1981’s ‘Escape’, which featured their best known song ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.

In a lawsuit filed in the Californian courts, Schon and Cain accuse Valory and Smith of trying to sneakily grab control of the band’s company Nightmare Productions. The latter pair, the former allege, orchestrated a board meeting of said company in February designed to oust Schon and Cain as company secretary and company president respectively, and to add Valory and Smith’s allies as new directors of the entity’s board.

The takeover, the lawsuit alleges, was all part of a plan by Valory and Smith to take control of the Journey trademark. They wanted that control, Schon and Cain allege, because they have plans to step down from actively touring with the group. If they were in control of the band’s brand, they could force their other bandmates to continue giving them a share of touring income even if they weren’t actively involved in future shows.

However, say Schon and Cain, not only was the attempted boardroom coup “malicious”, it was also “very ill-conceived”. Why? Because, they claim, Nightmare Productions doesn’t even own the Journey trademarks. The marks belong to a separate entity called Elmo Partners which is controlled by, you guessed it, Schon and Cain.

Elsewhere, the lawsuit bigs up Schon and Cain as being the core of the Journey enterprise. Alongside former frontman Steve Perry, the legal papers say, Schon and Cain “were responsible for the band’s rise to prominence in the 1980s”. To this day, the two men claim, they are “the key members of Journey, the songwriters and the vital core of the band”.

It also notes that, while Valory was a founder member, and Smith was also on board during the 1980s hits era, both have not been consistent members of the outfit throughout. Not least because they were both fired ahead of the recording of 1986 album ‘Raised On Radio’. They then returned nearly a decade later for a big band reunion in 1995.

But now they are out again. “Given Smith and Valory’s greed, self-dealing and breaches of their fiduciary obligations”, the lawsuit states, “Cain and Schon expelled Smith and Valory from Journey. On 3 Mar 2020, Cain and Schon provided written notice that Smith and Valory were no longer part of Journey and would no longer perform or tour with the band”.

As for what Cain and Schon want from their litigation, well, first of all, they want court confirmation that their Elmo Partners company controls the band’s trademarks and that the decisions made at the February board meeting of Nightmare Productions were invalid.

And, of course, they’d also like some lovely damages from their former bandmates. “Compensatory damages in excess of $10 million” for starters, and some “punitive damages” on top. Which sounds somewhat optimistic. But, I guess, anything is possible, and – whatever you do – don’t stop believin.