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Michael testifies in Sony suit

LONDON — George Michael, the pop star who is seeking a “divorce” from Sony Music, called his collapse in relations with the record label irreversible and said he wanted out of a contract that tied him down for the rest of his career.

Michael, taking the stand for the first time in the High Court case that started Oct. 18, presented a written statement saying the court should declare his Sony contract null and void. He signed the contract with Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd. in 1988 after Sony took over his old label, CBS United Kingdom.

Industry sources say the court case could reshape the music business because it challenges the kind of contract that often gives record labels powerful control over the work of artists.

Michael said CBS gave him creative, marketing and financial support during the decade he was with that label.

“Sony have, by and large, refused that support, financially and otherwise,” his 66-page statement said. “I am now convinced that, without a total artistic and personal compromise on my part, the sad deterioration in my relations with Sony worldwide is irreversible. This has left me confused as to the fate of any future recordings and, for the first time in my career, stifled creatively.”

Michael claims the 15-year contract he signed with Sony amounts to unfair restraint of trade for the rest of his career.

Gordon Pollock, a lawyer for Sony, told the court Michael was a super-rich pop star with an oversexed image who had broken many promises and contracts. He said Michael had reneged on legal agreements throughout his career. “You have constantly not performed your promises, and threatened to not perform your promises,” Pollock said.

Michael said Sony denied him important promotional support in the United States when one of his albums, “Listen Without Prejudice” was released in 1990, supposedly because the label disagreed with the artist’s decision to change his image. “I gained the very strong impression that the album had been ‘killed’ in order to teach me a lesson,” Michael wrote.

He said he had decided to tone down his image as a sex symbol because he had grown out of it and become more serious. But Pollock, while questioning Michael, suggested the star had manipulated his earlier, sexy image, made “particular use of the pelvic waggle” and knew he risked losing fans by later changing that look.

Michael, under questioning by Pollock, agreed he had more money than he knew what to do with, but said he still had a right to get a fair percentage from his recording label.

When the lawyer asked him how much money he was now worth, Michael declined to give a figure out loud, and instead wrote it on a piece of paper.