The Rolling Stones' next tour has not even been announced yet, but it is playing a key role in a legal battle between the man who has organized their treks for two decades and concert promoter Live Nation.
In November, Michael Cohl was sued for $5.35 million (3.3 million pounds) by Live Nation for allegedly breaching the terms of an agreement made at the time he left the company in 2008.
Now Cohl has struck back, saying that it was Live Nation that first breached the very same contract by attempting to "interfere" and "destroy" his opportunity to procure promotional rights to a Stones tour later this year.
The band, which last toured in 2007, has not revealed any plans to hit the road again. If it does tour, it would coincide with its 50th anniversary next year.
Cohl is famous in the entertainment business for his promotional endeavours. He is credited with inventing the modern rock tour, beginning with the Stones' "Steel Wheels" reunion tour in 1989, and has recently gained much attention for producing "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," the most expensive Broadway musical ever.
When Cohl left Live Nation amid a feud with CEO Michael Rapino over the direction of the company, he signed an agreement that spelled out how exactly the parties would compete going forward. Cohl was to pay $9.85 million in instalments to Live Nation in return for various assets, including a non-compete exemption to continue working with and promoting tours by the Stones, Pink Floyd and Barbra Streisand.
Live Nation sued Cohl for allegedly failing to pay $5.35 million in the 2008 agreement. But Cohl says that Live Nation never lived up to its side of the deal.
Last February, Live Nation sent Cohl a letter informing him that it was going to bid against Cohl for the Rolling Stones' next concert tour. The company followed up with an e-mail stating that Cohl could still pursue the band's tour, but only through a joint venture. Live Nation also wanted Cohl to detail his negotiations with the Rolling Stones, which Cohl says would give Live Nation key info that could be used to undercut his own bid.
Later, Live Nation allegedly proposed competing separately for a Rolling Stones tour. Cohl says the proposal amounted to a breach of his contract with his former employer.
Cohl calls promotional rights on this upcoming tour "the crown jewel" of the agreement he made with Live Nation in 2008. He says the value of this asset would have more than accounted for the $5 million he owes the company. In other words, Cohl implies that Live Nation would have gotten its money if it hadn't been the first to breach the agreement.
Cohl's countersuit also reveals that members of the Rolling Stones, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, have been informed by both parties of the "spat" and that they have expressed a desire not to get dragged into the middle of the dispute. But Cohl says the fuss is causing damage anyway. Live Nation has attempted to hurt his standing with the band's representatives, maintains Cohl.