Phil Spector made millions writing and producing hit records, but two murder trials have taken a toll on the famed record producer’s legendary wealth.
There’s an old axiom in music circles describing publishing rights as the “gift that keeps on giving.” Regardless of whether you sang on a hit record or played guitar on a million-selling hit, publishing rights guarantee royalty payments in the years to come.
Needless to say, Spector collects a lot of royalty checks. From his work in the early 1960s when he co-wrote Ben E. King’s top-ten hit, “Spanish Harlem,” to producing vocal groups like The Ronnettes to producing the Beatles' Let It Be as well as post-Beatle solo efforts by John Lennon and George Harrison, Spector’s magnificent ear and his uncanny ability to know what the public wants has paid handsomely for more than four decades.
However, as Spector waits for the jury to deliver its verdict on the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, his legal costs accrued from defending himself in the two murder trials has dented the producer’s seemingly bottomless pockets.
How much? Only Spector’s accountants know the exact amount the producer has shelled out for lawyers, expert witnesses and related expenses, but there are signs the producer’s fortune has experienced some downsizing since 2004 when he was originally ordered to stand trial for Clarkson’s death.
For example, Spector has employed as many as 11 attorneys over the last five years, one of which charged $1 million a year, reports the Los Angeles Times. Throughout the original murder trial, which resulted in a hung jury, as well as the resulting retrial, Spector also employed four private investigators, five paralegals, a jury consultant and several expert witnesses.
How much did all that legal muscle coast? Over $500,000 according to the Times, adding that the figure doesn’t include paying two “big-name” forensics specialists Spector retained, but never called to the stand.
Although the attorney that handles Spector’s business interests hasn’t commented on the producer’s spending, public records show Spector borrowed $1.3 million against his Alhambra home last year, almost the total assessed worth of the estate, according to the Times. Furthermore, that wasn’t the first time he borrowed against the property to pay legal expenses. As the first trial began in 2007, Spector borrowed almost $800,000 against the mansion plus another house he owns in the area.
Signs of cost-cutting by the producer include the number of attorneys he has sitting at the defense table – five for the first trial, but only one for the retrial – and the number of bodyguards hired to protect him and his wife, Rachelle – three at the first trial, but only one during the retrial.
Despite legal costs, Spector still has money coming in. So much, in fact, that the actual amount is open to speculation.
Aside from all the hit records Spector has collected royalties for over the years, the producer also gets paid when songs he produced, wrote and/or arranged appear in movies and TV shows, as well as songs sold as ringtones, played by cover bands or used as background music in public establishments such as restaurants and stores.
Regardless of the jury’s verdict, Spector’s legal problems (and expenses) won’t stop when the current trial ends. Clarkson’s mother has mounted a wrongful-death lawsuit against the producer. Since the standard of proof is lower in a civil suit than it is in a criminal trial, expect Spector’s legal fees to grow even larger.
Will Spector’s legal woes drive him to the poor house? The record producer has amassed legal bills that would stress the wallets of even the most well-heeled defendants. However, with royalties constantly flowing in while legal bills ensure the money flows back out, Spector’s fortune may be diminished, but it’s far from hitting rock bottom.
Or, as Spector’s current lawyer, Doron Weinberg, said:
“I doubt there is one-tenth of 1 percent of people in this country who can afford what Mr. Spector has had to put together so far for his defense.”
Click here for the Los Angeles Times article.