February 3, 2011
A star-studded Michael Jackson tribute concert slated for July 2010 never made it past the planning stages, and the City of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, has filed suit against California concert promoter Katrina Sussmeier. Having since learned that Sussmeier never secured any of the promised musical acts, nor gained the permission of the Jackson estate, representatives of Summerside claim the event was “little more than an elaborate con game.”
The city seeks to recover the $1.3 million it transferred to Sussmeier and her company, StarLink Productions, LLC, to secure a headlining performance from Beyoncé. Sussmeier allegedly pressured city representatives into wiring two installments of $650,000 to StarLink, following emails warning that, “Beyoncé is waiting for your offer with deposit but won’t be waiting long,” and asserting that the city’s hesitancy to wire the money was “seriously hurting Summerside’s reputation in the big leagues.”
In July 2009, Sussmeier, who had previously worked with the City of Summerside to stage a successful John Fogerty concert, proposed the idea of a Michael Jackson tribute concert. Expected to generate upwards of $5 million dollars, the event was to honor the late Michael Jackson and feature such artists as Usher, Ne-Yo, Fergie, Leona Lewis, and Beyoncé. Excited about the economic opportunity, the small city entered into a binder agreement and drew a proposed budget.
Between October and December of 2009, the representatives of Summerside made efforts to schedule status calls with Sussmeier and her associates. Though many of these status meetings were postponed, Sussmeier assured Summerside that everything was on track. But city representatives grew anxious, and on March 1, the city demanded that Sussmeier “ensure that we have five acts including Beyoncé … or please return our deposited funds.” Sussmeier sent purported letters of intent from the artists, but many items in the documents were blacked out, and none included mention of a July 2010 concert in Prince Edward Island.
Finally, in April 2010, less than three months before the scheduled concert, the City of Summerside provided Sussmeier with a written notice of breach of their agreement and requested a refund. Sussmeier refused to refund the money.
In response to the suit, Sussmeier stated, “I am outraged at the city of Summerside … Contrary to the egregious and outlandish accusations made in this complaint, the real victim here is me.” She went on to claim the suit is “nothing more than a fraudulent attack to destroy my name, my business, and my reputation … I welcome the opportunity to expose the facts.”