Paul McCartney files a lawsuit against the other three Beatles

Thursday, December 31, 1970

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On this very last day of 1970, Paul McCartney filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles – John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr – and Apple Corps, in London’s High Court, seeking an end to The Beatles’ contractual partnership, and requesting that a receiver should be appointed to manage Apple till the case is settled.

The case would open in the Chancery Division of the High Court on January 19, 1971.

From Wikipedia:

[…] McCartney’s wish to dissolve the partnership was problematic, since it would expose them all to enormous tax liability, and his pleas to be released from Apple were ignored by Lennon, Harrison and Starr. McCartney said he struggled all through the summer of 1970 with the idea of having to sue his bandmates in order to be free of Apple and Klein. Anticipating the suit, Klein suggested that the other Beatles invite McCartney to a recording session in October where Lennon and Harrison were due to work on Starr’s song “Early 1970”. Klein reasoned that if McCartney attended, it would show that the Beatles’ musical partnership was still active and undermine McCartney’s case. McCartney did not accept the invitation. In December, Harrison and McCartney met in New York to discuss their differences but the meeting went badly. The press nevertheless interpreted the meeting as a truce between the two parties and, since Lennon was also in New York that month, reports insisted that the Beatles would soon re-form.

On 31 December, McCartney filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles in London’s High Court of Justice for dissolution of the band’s contractual partnership. For Beatles fans, news of McCartney’s legal action and the publication of Lennon’s two-part “Lennon Remembers” interview in Rolling Stone increased the distasteful atmosphere surrounding the group’s demise. Time magazine dubbed the confrontation “Beatledämmerung”, in reference to Wagner’s opera about a war among the gods. […]

For me, I want to get out of the contract. I think the group is finished. We’ve split and everything that we’ve ever earned should now be split. They don’t agree. They think it should continue exactly as planned. But if the three of them want to, they could sit down today and write a little bit of paper saying I’ll be released … that’s all I want!

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off The Record 2 – The Dream is Over: Dream Is Over Vol 2” by Keith Badman

You see, there was a partnership contract put together years ago to hold us together as a group for 10 years. Anything anybody wanted to do — put out a record, anything — he had to get the others’ permission. Because of what we were then, none of us ever looked at it when we signed it. We signed it in ’67 and discovered it last year. We discovered this contract that bound us for 10 years. So it’s ‘Oh gosh, Oh golly, Oh heck,’ you know. ‘Now, boys, can we tear it up, please?’ But the trouble is, the other three have been advised not to tear it up. They’ve been advised that if they tear it up, there will be serious, bad consequences for them. The point, though, to me was that it began to look like a three-to-one vote, which is what in fact happened at a couple of business meetings. It was three to one. That’s how Allen Klein got to be the manager of Apple, which I didn’t want. But they didn’t need my approval.”

Listen, it’s not the boys. It’s not the other three. The four of us, I think, still quite like each other. I don’t think there is bad blood, not from my side anyway. I spoke to the others quite recently and there didn’t sound like any from theirs. So it’s a business thing. It’s Allen Klein. Early in ’69 John took him on as business manager and wanted the rest of us to do it too. That was just the irreconcilable difference between us.

Klein is incredible. He’s New York. He’ll say ‘Waddaya want? I’ll buy it for you.’ I guess there’s alot I really don’t want to say about this, but it will come out because we had to sort of document the stuff for this case. We had to go and fight — which I didn’t want, really. All summer long in Scotland I was fighting with myself as to whether I should do anything like that. It was murderous. I had a knot in my stomach all summer. I tried to think of a way to take Allen Klein to court, or to take a businessman to court. But the action had to be brought against the other three.

Paul McCartney – From interview with LIFE Magazine, April 1971

My biggest problem was I had to sue the Beatles; I tried to sue [Apple Group business manager] Allen Klein, but he wasn’t a party to any of the agreements, so I ended up having to sue my best friends as a technical matter. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but it was pointed out to me that it was the only way to do it. 

Paul McCartney, interview with Billboard, 2001

I really felt that Klein had to be got rid of because I could see that he wasn’t doing us any good. He got $5 million off us in the first year he managed us and he wanted more and I was just trying to fight for us. I was saying, ‘Don’t give him 20 per cent, give him 15. We’re a massive group,’ and they were saying, ‘Oh come on, you’ve got to give him twenty.’ And I was saying, ‘What do you mean?’ It all got so crazy that I decided that I had to sue Allen Klein. So I got all my lawyers and I said, ‘I’ve got to get out. We’ve got to do this or else he’s going to have everything that I’ve worked for, and the others.’ That’s the way I saw it. The lawyers then got on the case and they said, ‘Oh, oh, we can’t sue Allen Klein.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And they said, ‘He’s not a party to any of the agreements. You’ll have to sue The Beatles.’ So I said, ‘Well, I can’t do that. There’s no way that I can do that.’ So about two months later, while I was on the hill up in Scotland, with the mists, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something. But I can’t do what I’ve got to do.’ It took me two months to decide that I had to do it, sue The Beatles! It was murderous. I had a knot in my stomach all summer. It didn’t matter, they were parties to Klein and I had to actually go and sue them. You can imagine what I had to go through suing my best mates and seen to sue my best mates. That was the worst and knowing that no one would understand it. No one would understand why I had to do it, not even if I put out 50 million press releases… My lawyer, John Eastman, he’s a nice guy and he saw the position we were in, and he sympathised. We would have these meetings on top of hills in Scotland; we’d go for long walks. I remember when we actually decided we had to go and file suit. We were standing on this big hill, which overlooked a loch; it was quite a nice day, a bit chilly and we had been searching our souls. The only alternative was seven years with the partnership, going through those same channels for seven years…

There was a partnership contract put together years ago (January 1967) to hold us together as a group for ten years. Anything anybody wanted to do, put out a record, anything, he had to get the others’ permission. Because of what we were then, none of us ever looked at it when we signed it. We signed in ‘67 and discovered it last year. We discovered this contract that bound us for ten years. So it was, ‘Oh gosh, oh golly, oh heck,’ you know. (I said) ‘Now, boys, can we tear it up, please?’ But the trouble is, the other three have been advised not to tear it up. They’ve been advised that if they tear it up, there will be serious, bad consequences for them.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record 2 – The Dream Is Over” by Keith Badman

I dig John. There is a rift, but it’s not a bad one. I just want to get out of this trap. I want to dissolve The Beatles’ partnership. I suppose it ceased to be a working partnership eight months ago. I left in June. Songwriting between John and I came to a halt a year ago, but The Beatles’ partnership goes on for seven more years (sic) and this is why I want out now. The other three of them could sit down now and write me out of the group and I would be quite happy. I could pick up my cash and get out. I don’t know how much is involved but I don’t want Allen Klein as my manager. For my future, I am just going to write songs and they will be better than ever. I have got an album ready for release now.

Paul McCartney – January 1, 1971 – From “The Beatles: Off The Record 2 – The Dream is Over: Dream Is Over Vol 2” by Keith Badman

When we were starting to break up, we found a contract which bound us together for ten years and it had another five years to run. We had signed this and then forgotten about it. Klein insisted that we kept to it and that’s why I had to sue the others, because I could not sue Klein… It’s not the boys; it’s not the other three. The four of us, I think, still quite like each other. I don’t think there is bad blood, well not from my side anyway. I spoke to the others quite recently and there didn’t sound like any from theirs. It’s a business thing. It’s Allen Klein… Klein is incredible. He’s New York. He’ll say, ‘Waddaya want? I’ll buy it for you.’ I guess there’s a lot I really don’t want to say about this, but it will come out because we had to document the stuff for this case… We began to talk about the suit, over and over. I just saw that I was not going to get out of it. From my last phone conversation with John, I think he sees it like that. He said, ‘Well, how do you get out?’

In England, if a partnership isn’t rolling along and working, like a marriage, then you have reasonable grounds to break it off. Good old British justice! But before I went into this, I had to check out in my mind, is there such a thing as justice? Like, I throw myself into the courts and I could easily get caught, tell the story, put it all in there and then justice turns around… I mean, these days people don’t believe in justice. I really think the truth does win, but it’s not a popular thought. But then, all my life, I’ve been in love with goodies as against the baddies … People said, ‘It’s a pity that such a nice thing had to come to such a sticky end.’ I think that too. It’s a pity. I like fairy tales. I’d love it to have The Beatles go up in a little cloud of smoke and the four of us just find ourselves in magic robes, each holding an envelope with our stuff in it. But you realise that you’re in real life and you don’t split up a beautiful thing with a beautiful thing.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off the Record 2 – The Dream Is Over” by Keith Badman

It all comes down to one basic fact, which is, in my opinion, The Beatles haven’t finished as a group and me being in a new group, with a new line-up. I believe that, no matter what the consequences are, the tax consequences, or, ‘Sorry boys, you can’t do that, we’ve got a contract.’ The relationship in which we started the group was that if any one of us was in trouble and wanted to get out and was in a sticky situation, our view was that we’d sit down and see what we could do about it. Well, in fact, it’s just the opposite that has happened. It all boils down to one fact, they have my contract.

Paul McCartney – talking to BBC reporter Mike Hennessey – From “The Beatles: Off the Record 2 – The Dream Is Over” by Keith Badman

It was a nightmare. I don’t really like talking or even thinking about it. In a nutshell, this guy came in to rob the Beatles. A certain American manager was burgling the Beatles. And I spotted the burglar. Nobody else did. They rather liked this guy, and they welcomed him in.

I had the choice of busting the burglar, or allowing him to take everything from the house. I need to bust this guy or there’ll be nothing left. I said to people, OK, I’ll sue this guy. They said, “You can’t. If you do anything you have to sue the Beatles.” I couldn’t do that. It was a good few months before I could even get my head around it. Meanwhile, he was in the drawers and nicking everything.

Eventually, I got around to doing that. But it created real bad feeling between the Beatles. It created bad feeling in the public arena because all they saw was me suing the Beatles. You couldn’t explain to people why. I think people understand it now. But at the time it was a nightmare.

I tried my best in the press to say, Oh, blah blah blah, I couldn’t sue Allen Klein, blah blah. It was a shitty time for me. The only option was to either let him take it all, and all of us just swim along with him… but the truth of the matter is that he was a total cunt. He said I was fine: ‘Don’t worry, McCartney loves me’. And I knew I was hating the bastard. He was a crook and I could see it.

But to get away from him I had to sue the guys. And as you know, Liverpool, the mates, no matter how much we were arguing, it’s one thing you don’t ever want to do. […]

Paul McCartney – From “Conversations with McCartney” by Paul du Noyer, 2016

It was the worst time of my life, really, and the worst time of all our lives. The whole thing had gone sour. This battle was there, and I was just trying to save our fortune for us.

Paul McCartney – From “Conversations with McCartney” by Paul du Noyer, 2016

BEATLE Paul McCartney yesterday started High Court proceedings to end the Beatles partnership.

In a writ issued in the Chancery Division he claims a declaration that the partnership “The Beatles and co.,” formed in April, 1967, “ought to be dissolved and accordingly be dissolved.

He also asks that the partnership affairs be wound up; that accounts and inquiries be taken and made, including in particular an account of all partnership dealings and transactions between the partners; and that a receiver be appointed of the partnership’s assets.

Defendants to the action are John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr (sued under his real name of Richard Starkey) and Apple Corps Ltd.

Leslie Perrin Associates Ltd., Press and public relations consultants, stated on behalf of all four defendants, “We have nothing to say at the moment.

The Apple organisation was formed as the Apple Corps Ltd., early in 1968. One of its purposes was stated to be “to encourage unknown literary, graphic, and performing artists.” […]

From Daily Mirror, January 1, 1971
From Daily Mirror, January 1, 1971

PAUL STARTS COURT MOVE TO SPLIT THE BEATLES

PAUL MCCARTNEY today started High Court proceedings to end the Beatles’ partnership. In a writ issued in the Chancery Division today, he claims a declaration that the partnership “The Beatles and co.” formed in April, 1967, “ought to be dissolved and accordingly be dissolved”.

He also asks that the partnership affairs be wound up, that accounts and inquiries be taken and made, including in particular an account of all partnership dealings and transactions between the partners; and that a receiver be appointed of the partnership’s assets.

Defendants to the action are John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr (sued under his real name of Richard Starkey) and Apple Corps Ltd.

The writ was issued by Messrs Ashurst, Morris Crisp and Co., solicitors for Mr McCartney. Mr McCartney’s address is given as Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, London. The address of Mr Lennon, sued as “John Ono Lennon” is “Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, Berkshire, “now at the Regency Hotel, New York”; Mr Harrison’s is Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames, Berkshire; Mr Starkey’s Round Hill, Compton Avenue, Highgate, London; and Apple Corps Ltd’s Savile Row, London.

The Apple Organisation was formed as the Apple Corps Ltd early in 1968. One of its purposes was stated to be “to encourage unknown literacy, graphic and performing artists.” In June 1968, the company bought new headquarters, 12,000 feet of accommodation at Savile Row, Mayfair, for £500,000.

From Aberdeen Evening Express – December 31, 1970
From Aberdeen Evening Express – December 31, 1970

McCartney Seeks To Dissolve 2 Beatles’ Firms

LONDON – The New Year opened with final irrefutable confirmation that the Beatles are no more as one entity. Paul McCartney initiated High Court action to dissolve the Beatles and Co., formed in April 1967, and Apple Corps. He wants a full rendering of accounts and assets and four-way split of these between himself and the other three erstwhile group colleagues. It has been common knowledge that the Beatles have been glaring eye to eye more often than seeing eye to eye since soon after the death of their manager Brian Epstein. It’s understood that McCartney wanted Lee Eastman, now his father-in-law, to succeed Epstein in guiding their fortunes, but John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr overruled his choice in favor of Allen Klein. That decision was it as far as McCartney was concerned, and Lennon went into detail about his change in attitude towards the rest of the group in a recent interview published in an underground magazine.

Lennon’s friendship and marriage to Yoko Ono also is said to have taken a disruptive effect on the foursome, and the rather sorry end to the twentieth century’s most spectacular and legendary pop partnership will be a probably prolonged and acrimonious spell of litigation. The exact monetary value of the Beatles and Apple Corps has not yet emerged, but some quarters estimate it at being in excess or £40 million. Experts in such matters have already pointed out that, in the event of a division of the assets between the foursome, the capital gains tax is likely to make fearsome inroads into each share unless some satisfactory formula can be found to circumvent this hazard.

From CashBox Magazine, January 23, 1971
From CashBox Magazine, January 23, 1971

Last updated on April 1, 2022

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