Braxton Settles Up with Ex-Manager

Toni Braxton to pay Barry Hankerson and Blackground Records $375,000 and a portion of the royalties from her next album in return for a release from all contractual obligations as part of a settlement in her breach-of-contract lawsuit

By Natalie Finn Feb 14, 2007 5:30 AMTags

You apparently can put a price on freedom in some cases.  

Toni Braxton is free to whistle a happy tune and dance to her own drummer after reaching a settlement Tuesday in her lawsuit against ex-manager Barry Hankerson, whom she had accused of manipulating her away from her longtime label, LaFace/Arista, and then failing to properly promote her last album, Libra.  

"My freedom from Barry Hankerson is priceless, and means everything to me," Braxton said Tuesday. 

Priceless in theory, but not in actuality, it turns out. While the six-time Grammy winner has no further obligation to record under the Blackground label and is free to pursue other opportunities, Braxton also must return a $375,000 advance she received last year and hand over a portion of the royalties from her next album, according to Blackground attorneys Rickey Ivie and Samuel Chilakos. 

But you won't be hearing Braxton sing another sad love song about the arrangement. 

"This settlement allows Ms. Braxton immediately to start new projects of her choice," her attorney, Peter Haviland, said. "She wanted to end her relationship with Blackground and Barry Hankerson, and she has. Money has never been what motivates her. Integrity—artistic and personal—does." 

According to Braxton's camp, she had already refused the advance and was just looking to be released from her multi-album deal. Libra, which suffered from lackluster sales, was the only album she made with Blackground.  

Braxton originally filed her $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit Jan. 12 in a Manhattan federal court, but chose to drop it and refile in New York State Court after a federal judge ordered her to present more evidence or face a dismissal. 

Per Blackground, Braxton sued two days after she was released from her contract. 

She accused Hankerson of harboring a conflict of interest when he got her to leave Arista in 2003 after a decade-long relationship that produced Braxton's self-titled multiplatinum debut and her even more successful sophomore effort Secrets, which contained the signature single "Un-Break My Heart." 

Meanwhile, Hankerson says he negotiated a $23 million contract for Braxton with Arista after her highly publicized bankruptcy troubles in 1998, and that he signed her to Blackground at her request. 

The singer is currently performing of her own volition at the Flamingo Las Vegas hotel, where her show, Revealed, has been booked at least through March.