A Los Angeles judge has handed The Offspring a victory in its long legal battle with former drummer Ron Welty, who claimed he was owed millions more in profits from the veteran punk band’s $35 million catalog sale.
Welty, the band’s drummer from 1987 to 2003, claimed that lead singer Dexter Holland tried to “erase” his contributions to the Offspring’s golden era, including by failing to pay him his rightful cut of the sale of the band’s rights to Round Hill Music in 2015.
But Judge William F. Fahey largely rejected his accusations after a bench trial last fall, calling some of Welty’s allegations “completely illogical.” And in a final ruling on Monday, the judge sided with the Offspring on all remaining claims.
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“Judgement is entered in favor of defendants Offspring Inc.,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff Ron Welty shall take nothing.”
In a statement to Billboard on Wednesday, Welty’s attorney Jordanna G. Thigpen vowed to continue the fight: “In the few months I have been working with my deserving client and attempting to resolve this matter, it has become clear that the lower court was not the place where justice will be done. We are absolutely appealing, and look forward to higher authorities’ review of this court’s several decisions and its ultimate judgment.”
An attorney for the Offspring declined to comment on the decision.
Come Out and Pay
Welty joined the Offspring in 1987 and served as the band’s drummer across its heyday, including on its breakout 1994 album Smash and its 1998 peak with Americana, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and spent more than a year on the chart. When he left the band in 2003, no reasons were reported at the time.
But 17 years on, Welty filed a sweeping lawsuit in September 2020, claiming Holland and the other members had “forced him out of the band without cause” despite his “significant contributions to The Offspring’s success.” His lawyers claimed he was owed millions of dollars, and that the band was trying to “erase Mr. Welty and his achievements from the band’s history.”
“This lawsuit seeks, among other things, redress for The Offspring’s failure to pay Mr. Welty his rightful share of the band’s proceeds and a prohibition against their ongoing efforts to harm Mr. Welty, his legacy with the band, and his ongoing career,” his attorneys wrote at the time.
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In particular, Welty’s lawsuit challenged the 2015 sale of the band’s music to Round Hill, which saw the company pay a reported $35 million for both the recorded masters for six studio albums and a greatest hits album, as well as the band’s music publishing rights covering its entire career.
But as revealed in later court filings, that deal was really structured as two separate deals: one $20 million payment split among the band’s key performers for the rights to the recorded masters, and another $15 million paid directly to Holland for the publishing rights, which he had retained exclusively.
In his lawsuit, Welty claimed he had not only been underpaid for his portion of the recordings, but that he was owed a portion of the $15 million Holland had earned from sale of his publishing rights.
But at a bench trial held in October, the other members of the Offspring’s best-known lineup testified that structure of the deal was fair. Both Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman and Gregory “Greg K.” Kriesel told the judge that Holland had written all of the band’s music, thus had rightly retained all publishing rights.
In a written decision in January citing that testimony, Judge Fahey ruled that the deal had been “structured in accordance with industry standards” and that Welty had failed to prove that he was entitled to a cut of Holland’s $15 million.
“It is hard even to envision a reason why these two other band members would agree to such a structure unless they believed that Holland was the creator and owner of the music compositions,” the judge wrote at the time.
“To adopt Welty’s theory would require this court to conclude that Wasserman and Kreisel knowingly walked away from a share of the additional $15 million … as part of some scheme to deprive Welty of additional compensation,” Judge Fahey wrote. “Such a conclusion is completely illogical as well as unsupported.”
The January ruling also rejected Welty’s separate accusations that he was owed hundreds of thousands in unpaid royalties.
Following that decision, other issues in the case remained technically unresolved, and the case might have proceeded to another trial at some point in the future. But in Monday’s decision, Judge Fahey made clear that his January decision had effectively ended the case and that “no issues remained to be tried.” All of Welty’s remaining claims against the band were “premised on the same allegations and present the same factual and legal issues on which the court already ruled in defendants’ favor,” he wrote.
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