October 6, 1980: Bee Gees Sue Manager

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bee-gees (crop)It was the largest lawsuit ever filed in the music business: $136 million against Robert Stigwood’s RSO Records for unpaid royalties and Stigwood himself, who also managed the group, for financial misappropriation. As the group’s manager and record company, Stigwood handled virtually every aspect of the group’s career. (He had also managed the band Cream.)

Over the previous decade the Bee Gees – Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb – had become one of the biggest acts in popular music. At the core of their success were the three #1 hits – “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” – that they contributed to the 1977 soundtrack of a film Stigwood was producing, Saturday Night Fever. The soundtrack album soon became at the time the best-selling album ever. By the end of the decade things had soured between the group and the impresario, even though the next Bee Gees album in 1979, Spirits Having Flown, would also yield three chart-topping hits: “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.”

A Bee Gees ad from 1968

Related: Barry Gibb was knighted in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2018

After saying that the group’s suit was “an ill advised stunt,”  Stigwood countersued the Bee Gees for $318 million. The parties traded barbs and claims in the media.

Yet by May of the following year, the suits were settled (details were never revealed), and the tone of their statements had changed. As The New York Times reported, “The Bee Gees said they ‘deeply regret the distress caused’ and Mr. Stigwood said he had ‘always regarded them as personal friends’.” The group’s last LP for RSO, Living Eyes – the first album to be manufactured on compact disc – released in 1981, did have a song called “He’s a Liar.”

Stigwood sold RSO to PolyGram Records in ’81 and left the music business, going on to become a successful producer of movies and Broadway theatrical productions. He died in 2016.

With the death of Maurice in January 2003 and Robin in April 2012, the Bee Gees are no more.

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