In April 2018, when word spread that Lindsey Buckingham was fired by Fleetwood Mac, many speculated that it was only a matter of time before he filed a lawsuit. Earlier this month, Buckingham did just that, and sued his former band members for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
Fleetwood Mac has a long history of drama and turmoil. Many casual observers think back to the band’s iconic album “Rumours” and its partial subject-matter concerning the break-up of Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and the divorce of Christine and John McVie, but the band endured a number of predicaments prior to “Rumours” and the decades after. From founder Peter Green’s mental health issues and premature retirement from the band in 1970, to multiple line-up changes during a period of struggle and moderate commercial success during the early 1970’s, to the band’s rise to superstardom upon the arrival of Buckingham and Nicks in 1975, to the excess of “Tusk,” the drug-fueled tours that followed, the fights and allegations of abuse, Buckingham’s departure in 1987 on the eve of a tour, to diminishing commercial relevance during the late-1980’s (culminating in the departures of Nicks and Christine McVie), to the band’s mid-1990’s high profile reunion, to Christine McVie’s 1998 retirement (she would later return in 2014), Nicks’ alleged refusal to record a new album of material in 2017, to Buckingham’s 2018 firing – the band has consistently been faced with dramatics.
To some, Buckingham’s lawsuit may be seen as just another chapter in the Fleetwood Mac story, an action taken by a jilted ex-band member who is angry and wants revenge. However, if one reviews Buckingham’s complaint, it appears he has valid legal claims. Prior to his dismissal, the band (which is a partnership) booked a major 2018/2019 tour. According to the complaint, all of the partners, including Buckingham were each set to earn an estimated $12-$14 million, and because the band terminated him without cause (one suspects the band will argue he was terminated for cause) and has chosen to proceed with the tour without Buckingham, his partners in Fleetwood Mac have been enriched by usurping a partnership opportunity that was due to him.
Make no mistake, this lawsuit is about money. Fleetwood Mac is a band with lucrative assets and a lucrative touring operation. As a partner in Fleetwood Mac, particularly one that has been so essential to the band’s success, it is no surprise that Buckingham is going to fight for what he thinks is rightfully his.
The reality is that the inner-workings of a band of this magnitude with as much alleged baggage as it has, will likely not want too much revealed in the public record. The litigation will likely go a few rounds, but expect to see this lawsuit settled out of court.