Tha Row is now up the river with a court-appointed paddle.
A federal court judge authorized a bankruptcy trustee takeover of Marion "Suge" Knight's Death Row Records Friday, saying that "it seems apparent there is no one at the helm" of the label founded in 1991 by Knight and Dr. Dre and once home to rap superstars Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.
(Trustees are like magicians--they take whatever assets are left and convert them into cash to pay off the creditors. They can also tell creditors to take a hike if they investigate and find that the requests for reimbursement are in the wrong.)
Knight, who testified in May that he was down to his last $11 in the bank (along with about $28,000 in material possessions), has admitted that he hasn't perused his own company's sloppily kept financial books in about 10 years.
Despite that seemingly damaging admission, Knight's attorney, Daniel McCarthy, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ellen Carroll that his client was indeed "at the helm" of Death Row Records and has been negotiating revised distribution deals for the label's catalog.
"Please give him some time to do that," McCarthy said. Knight was not in court Friday--a fact that his creditors' attorneys emphasized as being indicative of just how far removed the big boss is from his foundering enterprise.
Knight also skipped a meeting with his creditors earlier in the week after injuring himself in a motorcycle accident last Sunday. Knight was "under doctor's orders not to even go out," according to his lawyer. The 41-year-old hip-hop mogul missed another meeting before then, as well, citing a death in the family as the reason for his absence.
Knight filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy protection Apr. 4 in order to stave off this sort of court-ordered takeover, claiming that a 2005 civil judgment that went against him to the tune of $107 million had wiped him out. Lydia Harris, who alleged that she and her husband Michael had helped bankroll Death Row back in its early days and were entitled to 50 percent of its earnings, sued Knight in 2002 and won.
Knight has since countersued Michael Harris for $106 million in damages.
Per the bankruptcy filing, Death Row has assets valued between $1 million and $10 million and debts exceeding $100 million. Hence all the red ink.
Judge Carroll has held off on appointing a trustee in Knight's personal bankruptcy case.
The good news is Knight doesn't have to go to prison for any reason, a fate that wouldn't be that unfamiliar to the label exec who spent nearly five years behind bars for probation violation and was released in 2001 into the open arms of civil litigation and financial troubles. He has been jailed briefly a couple of times since then for violating his parole.