Timbaland and Swizz Beatz are suing Triller after the short-form video platform allegedly failed to make a $28 million payment for the acquisition of their live music face-off series, Verzuz.
The music-producing pair claim Triller hasn’t followed through on any of its required payments since January. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, Triller allegedly failed to pay Timbaland and Swizz Beatz in January and later agreed to a settlement that would require it to pay $18 million in March and $1 million every month for the next 10 months. But those payments supposedly haven’t come through either.
Triller claims it has paid Swizz Beatz and Timbaland “millions in cash and in stock”
“To date, Defendants [Triller] have failed and refused to make any payment to Mosley [Timbaland] and Dean [Swizz Beatz] of the past due sums due and owing, and Defendants continue in default of their payment obligations under the Agreement,” the filing states. The lawsuit was first reported by The Washington Post.
Timbaland and Swizz created Verzuz in 2020 as a webcast that pits two artists and their music against each other. Triller acquired the series last year, and as part of the deal, the duo joined Triller’s management team and also became shareholders in its parent company, Triller Network. According to Billboard, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz split up a portion of their equity stake to 46 other artists who appeared on Verzuz, including Alicia Keys, T-Pain, Rick Ross, and John Legend.
In an email to The Verge, Triller claimed that it has paid Timbaland and Swizz Beatz “$50 million in cash and stock” and tried to frame the lawsuit as a personal dispute by the two musicians. The company even went so far as to say Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have “been the greatest beneficiaries of Triller to date.” Triller declined to provide a named spokesperson in emails to The Verge, but an email signature indicated that the message was sent by someone with the first name Ryan.
Earlier this month, a report from The Washington Post revealed other missing payments from the TikTok rival, with Triller failing to deliver consistent monthly funds promised to Black creators it recruited. This has reportedly left some creators strapped for cash as they attempt to meet Triller’s strict output goals. As noted by The Post, other influencers who signed on for TrillerTV deals in February 2021, including Maverick Baker, still haven’t received payment from the platform.
Triller initially sent this statement from an unnamed spokesperson to The Verge:
This is truly unfortunate and we hope it is nothing more than a misunderstanding driven by lawyers. We do not wish to air our dirty laundry in the press, but we have paid Swizz and Tim millions in cash and in stock. No one has benefited as much from Triller to-date. Triller has helped fuel VERZUZ to new heights - making it the global cultural phenomenon it is today. We hope to resolve this amicably and quickly, and truly hope it’s just a misunderstanding. If we are forced to defend it, we are more than optimistic the truth and facts are on our side.
After pressing Triller to attribute this statement to one of their spokespeople, we received an even longer statement from a different email address entirely:
First and Foremost this is not a feud over Verzuz. It is personal to Swizz and Tim. Swizz and Tim have Personally been the greatest beneficiaries of Triller to date, having been paid over $50 million in cash and stock personally, already.
This is nothing more than a performance dispute on personal payments to Swizz and Tim. On top of the $50 million they were paid, They have annual obligations, which if met, and no breach has occurred, allows them to an annual payment. Only one payment of $10m was in question.
We don’t believe they have met the thresholds for thar payment, including, but not limited to, failure to disclose obligations to labels, and we have been trying to resolve it amicably.It is unfortunate they elected to elevate this to the press and a “legal shakedown” and to further claim we now also owe them payment for one year from now. That has its own set of deliverables which include, but are not limited to, delivery of a set number of Verzuz for 2022. We hope this was just over zealous lawyers jumping the gun.
Either this will settle or a legal venue will weigh the evidence and determine if Swizz and Tim are entitled to what are effectively “earn out performance payments”, if they did or didn’t perform and if they did or didn’t properly disclose. This does not Affect Verzuz operations or Triller’s ownership of Verzuz.Swizz and Tim failed to disclose both trademark and label issues which are far in excess of $50 million dollars.
Our counter-claim will be forthcoming and will be in excess of $50 million in damages for, among other things, false reps and warranties, failure to disclose label payments owed and failure to disclose certain trademark issues, among othersIf this does proceed in court we look forward to putting on our case.
This message was also unsigned but included the name Ryan in an email signature.
The Verge asked if the writer was Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh, at which point Triller stopped responding.
Update August 18th, 2:32PM ET: Triller responded again a day later with an updated version of its second statement, elevating the amount paid to $55 million and removing discussion of a forthcoming counterclaim. This statement, the company said, could be attributed to Triller “ceo and chairman mahi d’silva,” whose name is normally spelled “Mahi de Silva.”
Here’s the updated statement from de Silva:
First and Foremost this is not a feud over Verzuz.
It is simply about earn-out payments to Swizz and Tim.
Swizz and Tim have Personally been the greatest beneficiaries of Triller to date, having been paid over $55 million in cash and stock to-date, and they stand to benefit even more over time.
This is nothing more than a performance dispute.
On top of the $50 million they were paid, They have annual obligations, which if met, and no breach has occurred, entitles them to additional payments.
Only one payment of $10m was in question. We don’t believe they have met the thresholds for that payment yet, but have been trying to resolve it amicably.
It is unfortunate they elected to elevate this to the press as a “legal shakedown” and it ignores the fact that they have deliverables which include, but are not limited to, delivery of a set number of Verzuz for 2022.
We hope this was just over zealous lawyers jumping the gun.
Either this will settle or a legal venue will weigh the evidence and determine if Swizz and Tim are entitled to these “earn out payments”. This does not Affect Verzuz operations or Triller’s ownership of Verzuz.
If this does proceed in court we look forward to a judgement that weighs all the facts.