Details of fees charged for Taylor Swift supports and destination weddings were revealed as pop star Guy Sebastian took the stand on Wednesday in a $1 million embezzlement case against his former manager.
Titus Emanuel Day, 49, has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges including embezzling money allegedly owed to Sebastian through royalties and performance fees, and 50 alternative counts of larceny, or stealing.
The Crown alleges that Day, who managed the Australian Idol winner via his company 6 Degrees between 2009 and 2017, embezzled almost $900,000 over three years, before the pair’s business relationship came to what the prosecutor has described as a “hostile” end.
The court was told there were “shortfalls” in fund amounts transferred by Sebastian, including the right slice of the $494,360 the singer earned as a support act for music superstar Taylor Swift’s Australian concerts in 2013.
But Day’s defence barrister, Dominic Toomey SC, told the jury in his opening address that his client has an answer to every single charge, which sometimes is so clear and obvious.
“You may wonder whether the authorities, particularly the police, were even wilfully blind to that,” he said.
“Seduced, perhaps, by Mr Sebastian’s high profile.
“Indeed you might even wonder whether there was an ulterior purpose on the part of Sebastian and the police in the pursuit of criminal charges.”
Sebastian, 40, told Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court that Day had wanted to start a new company with him as the “foundation” client.
After winning the televised singing contest in 2003, Sebastian said he was signed to a five-album contract with BMG, which merged with Sony.
He met Day through his wife Courtney, who was his A&R (arts and repertoire) representative with Sony at the time, playing a diverse role in helping him make music, he said.
His management contract was coming to an end, and she organised a meeting with her husband at 22 Management, where he eventually signed and “mainly really just dealt with Titus”.
“I thought it was his company for a while until he alerted me otherwise.”
But after Day failed in receiving equity from the firm, he approached Sebastian about starting his own company, 6 Degrees.
“He would refer to me as his foundation client, a client he needed to start a new company,” Sebastian said.
“He would use words like … marquee client.
“I also needed him.”
Sebastian agreed to end his relationship with his former agency 22 Management and joined Day’s new agency.
Day sent Sebastian an email in July 2009 about his new agreement with 6 Degrees, the court heard.
Sebastian said he did not read the contract at the time, as he did not have “confidence in reading a contract” and believed his lawyer would look at it, although he did not remember ever sending it on.
“One of the benefits of my manager [Day] was he was a contract lawyer, so I trusted that if he put something in front of me, he wouldn’t do so unless it was ready to be signed.”
At the time he was in the middle of releasing his Like it Like That album, a busy time requiring significant promotion of singles, he said.
He had two No.1 singles and albums respectively to his name and several top-10 hits.
“I was very proud of what I had achieved at that point.”
After Sebastian sued Day for money he believed was owed, his ex-manager counter-claimed about a commission he felt entitled to from gifts the entertainer had received from sponsors, crown prosecutor David Morters SC said in his opening address.
“The only time this suggestion ever came up was when Sebastian began asking for money for himself.”
The court was earlier told no contract was ever formalised between Day and Sebastian, but after the “acrimonious and hostile” break-up between the pair, the celebrity later discovered “anomalies” related to royalty payments never remitted to him by 6 Degrees.
Sebastian’s wife Jules, another of Day’s clients, will also be called to give evidence during the trial.
The trial before Judge Peter Zahra continues.
– with AAP