Friday night and they need a fight: Details about the inner workings of legendary heavy metal band Mötley Crüe are coming to light due to the band’s ongoing legal dispute with co-founder and lead guitarist Mick Mars.
Mars took his “Girls, Girls, Girls” bandmates to court last week and alleged that he’s being thrown out of the group for stepping back from touring because of ongoing health issues.
The 71-year-old backing vocalist filed a legal request in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 6 to compel Mötley Crüe’s corresponding businesses to obtain, inspect and make copies of documents relating to the band’s business records. In doing so, he made a lot of accusations about the iconic rockers.
At the core of the dispute is whether Mars, who is a 25% shareholder in Mötley Crüe’s businesses, can remain a shareholder, or even a member of the band alongside singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee. The two parties aren’t seeing eyetoeye on Mars’ future involvement with the act following his October announcement that he could no longer tour with the group. (His last concert with the “Kickstart My Heart” and “Shout at the Devil” musicians was Sept. 9, 2022, and the band has continued touring with guitarist John 5.)
“How did Mars’ brothers of 41 years respond to Mars’s tragic announcement?” his attorneys Edwin F. McPherson and Pierre B. Pine wrote in the petition obtained by The Times. “They noticed an emergency shareholders’ meeting for the band’s main corporate entity in order to throw Mars out of the band, to fire him as a director of the corporation, to fire him as an officer of the corporation, and to take away his shares of the corporation.
“When he did not go away quietly, they purported to fire him from six additional band corporations and LLCs,” the attorneys said.
Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing dispute:
Mars’ disputed ‘retirement’
Before embarking on a 2022 stadium tour with Def Leppard, Mars let Mötley Crüe know that it would be his last tour. He continued performing with chronic pain when the 12-show tour was expanded to 26 shows.
“He also made it very clear that he was not retiring, and that he would make himself readily available for recording, Vegas (or other locations) residences, and any other band related activities,” the attorneys said, adding that Mars received assurances from the band’s managers that “everything would be fine.”
In October 2022, Mars put out a statement announcing his retirement from touring with the group as a result of his worsening health issues. However, he maintained that he would remain a member of the band and would be open to recording new music or performing during residencies that didn’t require much travel.
“Mick Mars, co-founder and lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe for the past 41 years, has announced today that due to his ongoing painful struggle with Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S.), he will no longer be able to tour with the band,” his representative said in that statement. “Mick will continue as a member of the band, but can no longer handle the rigors of the road. A.S. is an extremely painful and crippling degenerative disease, which affects the spine.”
Less than 24 hours later, Neil, Sixx and Lee publicly responded by saying that Mars was retiring from the band and that guitarist John 5, who played with Van Halen and Marilyn Manson, would step in for him on the road.
“While change is never easy, we accept Mick’s decision to retire from the band due to the challenges with his health. We have watched Mick manage his Ankylosing Spondylitis for decades and he has always managed it with utmost courage and grace. To say ‘enough is enough’ is the ultimate act of courage. Mick’s sound helped define Mötley Crüe from the minute he plugged in his guitar at our very first rehearsal together. The rest, as they say, is history. We’ll continue to honor his musical legacy,” they said in a statement released by BMG Rights Management.
The announcements came days after the rockers announced another leg of their co-headlining Stadium Tour, which is scheduled to hit Latin America and Europe through July.
“We will carry out Mick’s wish and continue to tour the world as planned in 2023. No doubt it will take an absolutely outstanding musician to fill Mick’s shoes so we are grateful that our good friend, John 5 has agreed to come on board and join us moving forward. We’ll see all you Crüeheads out on the road!” their statement said.
The guitarist credits himself as a co-founder of the band that rose to fame on the Sunset Strip. The metal legends formed in 1981 after Mars placed a want ad in the Recycler that Sixx and Lee answered. Mars also suggested that Neil, who attended high school with Lee, join the band too, according to the allegations made in the court documents.
“Mars played lead and rhythm guitar, and sang backing vocals, for the band for 41 years. In fact, only he and Sixx stayed in the band continuously throughout the band’s existence, as Neil and Lee left the band at different times, ultimately to return,” Mars’ attorneys said. “Similarly, only Mars and Sixx were shareholders and members in the band’s corporations and LLCs throughout the band’s existence.”
Mars has suffered from “horrifically debilitating” Ankylosing Spondylitis for decades. He was diagnosed at 27 with the chronic and inflammatory form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine and pelvis. He disclosed his painful struggles in the band’s 2001 biography, “The Dirt,” writing that the pain “felt like someone was igniting fireworks in my bones.” He underwent surgery in 2004 because of it and has dealt with a condition referred to as “bamboo spine” for years.
What Mars is alleging in his lawsuit
The guitarist last week requested a writ of mandate that would legally require the band and its corresponding businesses to make available business records he requested. In it, he alleged that the other members of Mötley Crüe tried to remove him as a significant stakeholder in the group’s corporation and business holdings during a November shareholders meeting.
Mars was “suspicious from the manner in which the band was treating him” and requested that it provide corporate and business documents for him to inspect. When he didn’t receive them, he asked the court last week to compel those records, citing his statutory right as a shareholder in California to do so, and after allegedly already exhausting all means at his disposal to get them.
Mars’ attorneys said he was presented in late October with a “horrifically unfair and one-sided” separation and release agreement that would decrease his touring profits from 25% to 5% — then to nothing for future tours. The same applied to merchandise using the name of the band or related logos. However, the agreement would allow the band to continue to use Mars’ name and likeness indefinitely.
His attorneys alleged that he was told that if he didn’t accept the severance package offered, he would be removed as an officer and director of the band’s corporate entities, and they would force him to sell his shares of Mötley Crüe Inc. to them “based on book value with no value assigned to the Mötley Crüe name.” Basically, not very much.
Then at the Nov. 4, 2022, shareholders meeting, they barred some of Mars’ representatives and voted to oust him as a director and officer of Mötley Crüe Inc. and the band’s Red, White & Crüe Inc., and to purchase his shares at book value.
“In addition, instead of requiring Mars to divest his interests simply in MCI and RWC, as the original draft agreement had required, the new agreement still required Mars to divest his complete interest in MCI and RWC, but now also required him to divest his interest in five additional corporations and LLCs, some of which Mars did not even recognize,” the documents said.
Although the decision was postponed for a few weeks, his attorneys eventually received a Demand for Arbitration that the other band members had filed against Mars, essentially “suing him to establish that Mars is no longer an officer, director, or shareholder of MCI.”
“They clearly commenced an arbitration, rather than a public lawsuit, so that the public would not be aware of the deplorable manner in which they treated their ‘brother’ of 41 years,” his attorneys said.
Mars also accused Sixx of gaslighting him and calling his guitar playing “sub par.” Sixx allegedly plotted “to force him out of the band and take his shares” and repeatedly told Mars that he was playing the wrong chords and that fans were complaining about his performance during the tour.
Mars fired back in the documents. He alleged that Sixx “did not play a single note on bass during the entire U.S. tour,” that “100% of Sixx’s bass parts were nothing but recordings” and that significant portions of Neil’s vocals and Lee’s drumming were prerecorded.
“The fact is that Mars is rarely mocked or criticized online. He is a quiet member of the group, who shows up to play, and puts his heart and soul into each performance. Conversely, other band members are often criticized online, particularly Neil, who is routinely torn to shreds for, among other things, not remembering the songs,” Mars’ attorneys said.
The writ of mandate also detailed several of the band’s controversies, delineating Mars’ bandmates’ past transgressions, including drug and alcohol addictions. He also referred to Neil’s run-ins with the law, physical attacks and bankruptcy that culminated in Neil being fired from the band. Information also was mentioned about how Lee was placed on probation and convicted of spousal abuse involving ex-wife Pamela Anderson and how Sixx was jailed in Japan after throwing a bottle at Mars and injuring a bullet train passenger.
How the band responded
The band has not yet filed a response to Mars’ petition. But in a statement to Variety, the band’s litigation attorney Sasha Frid argued that Mars effectively resigned from the band by announcing his touring retirement.
“Retiring from touring is resigning from the band,” said Frid. “The band’s primary function is to tour and perform concerts. And … if a shareholder resigns, he cannot receive any compensation from touring — which is what Mick is trying to get. It’s clear-cut that Mick is not entitled to any more money.”
Frid described Mars’ legal action as “unfortunate and completely off-base.” He said Mars voted on and signed an agreement in 2008 in which he and every other band member agreed that “in no event shall any resigning shareholder be entitled to receive any monies attributable to live performances (i.e., tours).”
“After the last tour, Mick publicly resigned from Mötley Crüe,” Frid said. “Despite the fact that the band did not owe Mick anything — and with Mick owing the band millions in advances that he did not pay back — the band offered Mick a generous compensation package to honor his career with the band. Manipulated by his manager and lawyer, Mick refused and chose to file this ugly public lawsuit.”
Sixx also responded on Twitter on April 6, sharing a link to Variety’s story and writing: “Sad day for us and we don’t deserve this considering how many years we’ve been propping him up-We still wish him the best and hope he find’s lawyers and managers who aren’t damaging him. We love you Mick”
Support for Mars
The embattled guitarist has been backed by a number of colleagues, namely ex-Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing, who said he sympathizes with Mars because he’s going through “exactly the same thing.”
Neal Schon, who founded Journey in 1972 and remains its consistent member, held a fan poll asking if his followers were #TeamMick or #TeamMotleyCrue.
“Given his health issues, and he obvious swagger, he gives to the band through his guitar playing. He didn’t deserve this,” he tweeted, posting several threads declaring that he’s “Pro Mick.”
Fans have been unloading on the band via social media, particularly in response to Sixx’s tweet and to one pointed post on Mötley Crüe’s Instagram page, hoping for unity among the musicians.
“Pretty disappointed in all the s— going down between you boys,” said one fan comment.
“Really sucks the issues going on in this band cuz they are a favorite of mine and honestly mars made [them] who they were with his guitar and sound,” said another Instagram user. “It’s shame what sobriety does to people. Their new guitar player is a great player but he is only playing what’s been written. It’s a shame to cause they would never have gone this far without him…..
“I thought that y’all would at least believe in free speech,” wrote another.
“Unfortunately this sounds like it boils down to dollars.. Please don’t let the last leg of your career go down like this Crue, We all love Mic and his signature sound. You have a lot of history together, make this right on both sides for you and for us fans.”
What comes next?
The case has been assigned to Judge James C. Chalfant and a trial-setting conference has been scheduled for July 13.