By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 20, 2004 03:17 PM
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There’s not only red ink but bad blood between Madonna and her estranged business partner, Warner Music, which accuses the star of losing $66 million for the company over the past five years and failing to pay back a $20 million loan from Warner, according to court papers.

The finger-pointing began last month in Los Angeles Superior Court, where Madonna’s Maverick Records label sued Warner Music and its former parent Time Warner Inc. (also the parent company of PEOPLE) for breach of contract and improper accounting and management that cost the singer and her business partners millions of dollars.

In the suit, Maverick — which was founded by Madonna in 1992 — accuses Warner Music (now owned by Seagram’s liquor heir Edgar Bronfman Jr.) of “engaging in acts of self-dealing and profit-taking, falsely accounting for receipts and expenses of the partnership … and secretly attempting to seize partnership opportunities for their own benefit.”

In Warner’s reply to the suit, as reported in Tuesday’s New York Post, the company argues, “Maverick has invented and asserted trumped-up and baseless claims of fiduciary breach and breach of contract against its long-term partner.” Warner also suggests that Madonna launched her attack just as the contractual time arrives for Warner to begin the process of buying out Madonna’s label.

Maverick’s suit asks the court to declare that the label has the right to end the joint-partnership agreement and do business with other companies. Madonna, 45, and her business partners also seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, which her attorney, Bert Fields, estimated to be more than $200 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Neither Madonna nor Bronfman offered direct comment.