Cher sues Sonny Bono’s widow for breach of contract, claims she’s not getting paid royalties

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The singer alleged that Mary Bono violated the 1978 matrimonial agreement she had with her ex-husband, which formed the second part of Sonny & Cher.

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Cher filed suit against Mary Bono in Los Angeles on Wednesday, claiming Sonny Bono’s fourth wife and widow is illegally withholding her royalties from Sonny & Cher’s megahit in the ’60s.

In court documents obtained by Granthshala News, the 75-year-old singer alleged that the former member of Congress violated the contract signed by Cher and her ex-husband after the divorce. Sonny, whose real name was Salvatore Bono, and Cher married in 1967 and skyrocketed to success as a musical duo. They separated in 1974.

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The documents cite the “1978 marriage settlement agreement” Sonny and Cher entered into after their split. Cher claims that the former “agreed to an equal division of their community property.”

“When they were divorced, Plaintiff and Sonny agreed to an equitable division of their community property, and to that end, in 1978 Sonny was irrevocably handed over to Plaintiff, his sole and separate property in the entire world. As and for ever, fifty percent of his rights to music composition royalties, record royalties, and other property,” the filing states.

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It continues: “Since 1978, Plaintiff has been the undisputed owner of his fifty percent of all musical composition and record royalties to which Plaintiff and Sonny were entitled by reason of their association and marriage, including Sony, of all royalties from its businesses. Fifty percent, and his successors, derive from those musical compositions and recordings.”

It’s been more than 40 years since that settlement was established, and now, Cher’s legal team claims that Sonny’s widow “claims that the statutory termination provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 are completely inappropriate … has undone her ownership of royalties from the songs and recordings of Sonny and made famous during their marriage, and deprived the plaintiff of other rights long established under the 1978 settlement.”

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Sonny died in a ski accident in 1998. Mary Bono was soon appointed administrator of the late musician’s estate.

According to the lawsuit, Cher formed The Veritas Trust in 1990, where she would own 50% of the royalties. She now claims, however, that “in or around 2016 the heirs, or most of them, with the assistance or participation of Vixen, issued notices of termination to various music publishers or other companies that Sonny transferred or licensed.” Renewal copyrights in musical compositions, or rights thereunder. Notices of heirs specify various effective dates of expiration ranging from dates from 2018 to 2026.”

Court papers allege that issuing the termination was done “without” the “knowledge or involvement” of Cher.

Sometime last month, representatives of the trust managed by Mary also allegedly “abrogated the composition royalties clause that Sonny had assigned to the plaintiffs in a 1978 marriage settlement agreement and, consequently, the statutory termination of those royalties to the heirs.” But it takes away his right.”

Cher now claims that Mary has refused to pay her and her fifty percent royalties of trust and her approval rights, among other issues. She claims damages exceed $1 million and is seeking trial by jury.

Mary Bono did not immediately return Granthshala News’ request for comment.


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