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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 14:25 GMT


Robbie loses court fight

Take That: Robbie Williams (second right) left in 1995

Former Take That singer Robbie Williams could face a £1m bill after losing an appeal in his High Court battle against former manager Nigel Martin-Smith.

Lords Justices Beldam, Roch and Mummery had been urged by Mr Williams' lawyers to overturn a previous High Court ruling that he must pay Mr Martin-Smith thousands of pounds in commission in a contract dispute.

The entertainer had claimed Mr Martin-Smith failed in his duty as a manager by siding with bandmates Gary Barlow, Jason Orange, Mark Owen and Howard Donald when they fell out in 1995.

But Mr Martin-Smith claimed the singer owed him commission under the terms of a management agreement signed by him and the other members of Take That in 1990.

In November 1997, Mr Justice Ferris ruled Robbie Williams had been in breach of the agreement and threw out his claim that Mr Martin-Smith was not entitled to commission.

First verdict 'the right result''

Mr Williams was told to pay a one-off sum of £90,000 in commission to Mr Martin-Smith, plus a share of his royalties until the year 2006.

The judges dismissed the appeal, calling the original decision "the right result".

[ image: Robbie Williams at the 1999 Brit Awards]
Robbie Williams at the 1999 Brit Awards
Robbie Williams left the group in July 1995, convinced he was being punished for enjoying a hedonistic lifestyle.

He offered to stay until the group had completed planned tours, but after being told he had to quit immediately or stay with the group, he decided to leave straight away. He did not give Mr Martin-Smith the required six months' notice of his departure.

Mr Justice Mummery, giving the court's judgment, said Mr Martin-Smith's duty was to the group as a whole above any individual member.

He said: "It was in the best interests of all of them that there should be an immediate resolution of the disagreements within the group.

"The advice was that the defendant should be given the option of staying or going straight away. It was a reasonable option. The plaintiff did not abandon the defendant, who, in his own interests, chose to leave the group immediately."

[ image: Take That finally split in 1996]
Take That finally split in 1996
Robbie Williams must also pay Mr Martin-Smith commission owed on £450,000 of royalties he waived to get out of his recording contract with BMG.

Robbie Williams has already paid more than £100,000 to his former manager, but now he must pay the cost of the original case and the appeal - expected to be around £350,000. Final costs could total around £1m.

Mr Martin-Smith said in a statement: "Robbie has now had two attempts at trying to persuade a court of law that I acted badly towards him. He has now failed twice."

"I have great pity for Robbie. I really was very fond of him, but he is not the same lad that I took off the dole and made into a star all those years ago."

Mr Williams had not been present in court during the appeal, which concentrated largely on the finer details of contract law.

His management company IE Music said in a statement that the two-year battle with Mr Martin-Smith was now "finished".

It added: "Robbie is concentrating on the hugely successful career he has built since his split with Nigel Martin-Smith and has left his lawyers to deal with this tedious case."

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