2013 was supposed to be a big year for the 'Box. Band members were celebrating a 20th anniversary and had a new album to promote. Then, according to a lawsuit filed last month in federal court, they ran into a bad business partner: the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Court documents show that Lujen, the band's former marketing and managing company, in January 2013 signed a devil's deal with the tribe.
According to a letter of intent that was filed with the court as an exhibit and signed by Seminole Chief Financial Officer Michael Ulizio, the tribe promised to sink $400,000 into the band. In return, the tribe would get rights to two albums completed by the band, 60 percent of the sales, and guarantees from a January to March 2013 tour, 100 percent of the same for the band's summer 2013 tour until the investment was paid back, and then 60 percent after, followed by a 50/50 cut of all profits thereafter.
As a kicker, the band agreed to hand over autographed guitars to the tribe's Boston Hard Rock location, as well as play the March 2013 Burgers & Bash concert at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for a serious discount. But when the $400,000 never came through after repeated promises, the band fired its management, the lawsuit claims. Lujen is now suing the tribe.
"My clients were jumping through every hoop, and then [the tribe] stopped returning phone calls and they stopped responding to emails," says Lujen's attorney, Stefanie Moon. "The main issue is that the tribe portrays themselves as being friendly to business and entertainers when they're not."
In similar business suits, the attorneys for the tribe typically cite the Seminoles' sovereign immunity, a legal term that, as an independent nation, means they're protected from lawsuits. "When you have an issue or a claim that they have harmed you," Moon says, "they use their sovereign immunity."
A similar suit is currently churning through the courts in Broward. Marketing guru and radio personality Mobile Mike claims he inked a deal in 2012 that make him head of an in-house promotional firm that worked solely for the tribe — a job that earned him $100,000 a month. Then, in June 2013, the payments stopped. "They just cut me off," he says.
Mobile Mike is now suing the tribe for $250 million for breach of contract.
Tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner says, "Anyone can file a frivolous lawsuit about anything, and in fact, the band Candlebox is not even a party to this suit. Their former manager filed it without their involvement."