Mel B can’t work for Nine – and her husband is an unsatisfactory witness, says judge
The network went to court saying that the ex Spice Girl’s manager – her husband Stephen Belafonte – had signed an exclusive deal via his management company Osiris.
According to a ruling published by Justice David Hammerschlag of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the exclusive deal with Seven, which runs until the end of January next year, remains in place.
Despite this, last month Mel B signed to Australia’s Got Talent which is about to switch networks from Seven to Nine.
In the court hearing Belafonte claimed that he had had a conversation with Seven last year in which he flagged issues over visas for Mel B’s children that could leave her unable to move from the US to Australia for the show as it would split her from them. Seven’s director of production Brad Lyons said in his evidence that the issue only came up earlier this year.
Lyons said that he had tried to devise a way for her to stay involved in the show from LA. He disagreed with Belafonte’s claim that he had been willing to release her from her obligations to Seven.
Justice Hammerschlag stated: “Where their evidence is in conflict on any matter of substance, I prefer that of Brad Lyons. Brad Lyons was a plausible witness who emerged from cross-examination unscathed. In contrast, Stephen Belafonte was an unsatisfactory witness. He was evasive and unclear and gave inconsistent evidence. He displayed a propensity to say inaccurate things on the spur of the moment. Brad Lyons’ evidence sits comfortably with the contemporaneous objective material and the inherent commercial probability, whereas Stephen Belafonte’s evidence does not.”
Belafonte and Lyons had a conversation in late february in which the seven executive put forward ideas about how to keep Mel B involved in the show, even if she couldn’t be in Australia.
By March 3, Belafonte was in secret discussions with Nine. On March 14, he signed a deal for Mel B to be involved in AGT and in Australia for three months. Nine agreed to cover their costs if there was legal action from Seven.
The judge concluded: “Under the Agreement, Mel has an obligation to provide her exclusive services to Seven and Seven is entitled to her performance of this obligation. Seven seeks no more than her compliance with a negative promise not to provide services to its competitor, which promise is part of a fair and freely negotiated bargain made recently.
“I see no reason why she should not be ordered to keep her word that she would not work for anyone but Seven in Australia in 2013.”