The estate of former Roots’ bassist Leonard Hubbard and his widow Stephanie Hubbard have filed a lawsuit against The Roots’ Questlove, Black Thought and several other parties relating to the group’s business dealings. According to The Philly Voice, Hubbard claims they defrauded her late husband out of millions of dollars over the last decade.
Questlove, Black Thought, Roots manager Shawn Gee and Roots employee Munir Nuriddin stand accused of violating federal RICO laws by scheming to deny Hubbard his earnings from The Roots since 2013. The suit also names Live Nation Entertainment, The Roots on Tour and several companies that previously handled The Roots’ business dealings.
The lawsuit explains Hubbard and the late Malik B. were initially each given a 17 percent stake in Grand Negaz, Inc., a corporate entity The Roots used to purchase its trademark and finance business ventures. Hubbard was also given a 25 percent stake in a company that handled The Roots’ recordings and publishing as well as a 33 percent stake in its touring performance company.
The lawsuit alleges Gee, Questlove and Black Thought entered into several business contracts and opened bank accounts to deposit money from the three companies by “falsely purporting to represent all stakeholders” beginning in 2013. It further claims the three men—through acts of “forgery, wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud and criminal copyright infringement”—received millions of dollars through the band’s corporate entities, some of which Hubbard was entitled to as a stakeholder.
The estate then claims they “took control” of the finances and The Roots’ business entities, including all of Hubbard’s share value. In 2013, the suit continues, they founded a separate business entity called Legendelphia using funds from Grand Negaz, Inc. without Hubbard’s consent. The docs state they attempted to transfer and convert much of the original company’s assets to a new company owned exclusively by The Roots’ co-founders.
The lawsuit further alleges Gee secretly deactivated Hubbard’s personal royalty account with Universal Music Publishing Group in September 2014. Additionally, the docs say Questlove and Black Thought directed a “fraudulent” letter to be written from Legendelphia to UMPG in 2013, requesting all publishing royalties be moved from Grand Negaz to Legendelphia.
Hubbard, who was with the band for 15 years, died in 2021 after battling blood cancer. The lawsuit is seeking restitution for the property, money and benefits it claims are owed to Hubbard and his estate, as well as attorneys’ fees and additional damages. The estate also wants the court to inspect the defendants’ records regarding Hubbard and his estate, take an accounting of their business transactions and suspend the use of The Roots’ trademark until its value can be determined.
Luke Lucas, an attorney at Lucas Laws Group representing the estate, said, “I would hope that these guys would have enough respect and compassion for their former band member to make sure that he receives compensation for what may have not been given to him in the past, and so that his widow can live a reasonable life.”