Kelsey Grammer has sued the Artists Agency, his former agents, seeking to recover $1.8 million in commissions.
Suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, follows a Screen Actors Guild arbitration that ended with an order for Grammer to pay commissions he has withheld since 1998.
The agency also claims ongoing profit participation in Grammer’s hit series “Frasier,” and several million dollars more are at stake with the show in syndication.
Grammer’s attorney, Martin Singer, said, “Kelsey has always honored his obligations to his representatives, but in this case he wants to fight to the end because he believes that agents shouldn’t get commissions unless they do the work.”
Michael Livingston, one of Grammer’s agents at the Artists Agency, told Daily Variety, “We have been involved in a SAG arbitration for two years, which we won, and Kelsey Grammer doesn’t want to pay. It’s as simple as that.”
According to the complaint, Grammer became disappointed with the Artists Agency, which had begun to rep him in the 1980s. He alleges that the agency did not get him the role of Frasier Crane on “Cheers” or “Frasier,” a point Livingston disputes.
Believing that the Artists Agency was “holding his motion picture career hostage,” Grammer sought movie representation from United Talent Agency, but not before Artists Agency allegedly extracted a renewal contract from him on television work.
Grammer terminated his relationship with the agency in 1996 and stopped paying commissions in 1998. The Artists Agency then commenced arbitration. The arbitrators’ ruling, handed down Aug. 4, upholds the renewal agreements and orders Grammer to pay the withheld commissions.
Current suit, seeking to overturn the arbitration, alleges that the ruling violates SAG’s collective bargaining agreements because the renewal contracts had a term longer than three years, were not filed with SAG within 15 days and contained blanks when Grammer signed them.