Dick Clark’s Biggest Fights: Grammys, Golden Globes & More

On TV, Dick Clark was everybody’s friend. But as a businessman, he made plenty of enemies. From a $10M spat with the Grammys to a legal sweepstakes mess, see the music legend’s court battles.

In the hours after Dick Clark’s death, he was eulogized by everyone from Larry King to Gloria Estefan, who credited America’s oldest teenager with convincing her to perform again after a debilitating car accident in 1990. Clearly, Clark served as a father figure to many of music’s biggest icons. But there was another side to Clark, too: the ambitious business man. And as he built his multi-milliondollar empire, Clark often found himself in court. Here are some of Clark’s biggest legal battles over the years.

Mark J. Terrill / AP Photo

2012: Dick Clark vs. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Dick Clark’s production company has worked on the Golden Globes telecast since 1983. But earlier this year, both parties found themselves in court. The issue: in 2010, Dick Clark Productions signed a $150 million deal with NBC, giving the network rights to televise the awards show through 2018. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association responded with an acrimonious lawsuit arguing Dick Clark Productions had no right to make such a deal without the organization’s consent and threatening to sever ties with Clark. After weeks of testimony, a federal judge urged both sides to settle. They each drew a “decision tree,” but even after Clark’s death, there’s been no resolution.    

Chris Carlson / AP Photo

2004: Dick Clark vs. a 76-year-old Man

Ralph Andrews, a 76-year-old game show producer, sued Dick Clark Productions for age discrimination, claiming he lost a job to a 27-year-old candidate instead. As evidence, Andrews said that he had a letter from Clark that allegedly said, “People our age are considered dinosaurs! The business is being run by The Next Generation.”

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

2002: Dick Clark vs. The Queen Mary

Clark claimed a developer in Long Beach, Calif., owed him $13 million in damages for alleged breach of contract and fraud after not building a musical museum in his name called “Dick Clark’s Great American Music Experience.” According to media reports, Clark said that the developer (Queens Seaport Development, which operated the Queen Mary) owed him consulting fees of $15,000 a month for seven years, as well as punitive damages. The failed construction project was to include restaurants, shopping and a musical arena.

Reed Saxon / AP Photo

2001: Dick Clark vs. The Grammys

Clark filed a $10 million lawsuit for lost advertising revenue against the Music Academy, arguing that it was sabotaging his younger, hipper American Music Awards. Clark supposedly had Michael Jackson scheduled as a guest—until the Grammys told the King of Pop he couldn’t appear on both shows. According to Clark, the same thing happened with Britney Spears, Toni Braxton, and Sean “Diddy” Combs. “This has been a bad situation for a long time,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Clark as saying at a press conference. “I have bitten my tongue for years … I ain’t going to take it any more.” The lawsuit garnered so much attention that Newsweek ran an article asking: “Should the Grammys be renamed the Greedys?”

1998: Dick Clark vs. Old People

According to the Miami Herald, “dozens of old people” in Florida filed a lawsuit against sweepstakes promoter American Family Publishers and its spokespeople, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, for deceptive advertising. These people claimed they flew to Tampa, Florida, to collect their multi-million-dollar prize after they were tricked into thinking they had won the sweepstakes. “They have clearly stepped over the line from advertising hype to unlawful deception,” said the state’s attorney general at the time. In 1999, American Family Publishers settled lawsuits in four different states by paying $4 million in damages, and they subsequently revised the wording of their mailers.

1993: Dick Clark vs. Paramount

Before there was To Catch a Predator, Paramount’s Hard Copy had “Caught on Tape,” a segment with footage of criminals breaking the law. Dick Clark’s production company followed with a similarly-titled TV special, Caught in the Act, and Paramount slapped them with a $2 million lawsuit. Among the claims listed in this Los Angeles Times report: that Clark stole trade secrets and hired two employees under contract with them. 

AP Photo

1960: Dick Clark vs. Congress

Dick Clark’s charisma didn’t only make him a hit onscreen—it also made him more likeable on the witness stand. Clark came under public scrutiny in April 1960 when he was called to testify during the Payola hearings, in which record companies were alleged of paying disc jockeys to play their artists’ songs. Clark, whose immense influence on American Bandstand could instantly turn any artist into a star, was revealed to have ownership stakes in 33 different record companies, distributors and manufacturers—all of which made significant profits from the artists Clark boosted. When on the stand, Clark told the House Committee on Legislative Oversight, “Believe me, this is not as unusual as it may seem. I think the crime I have committed, if any, is that I made a great deal of money in a short time on little investment. But that is the record business.” Clark’s charm (which The New York Times characterized by calling him “smooth, slim and youthful on the witness stand”) got him off the hook—Rep. Oren Harris concluded the hearings and told Clark, “Obviously you’re a fine young man. I don’t think you’re the inventor of the system, I think you’re the product.”