Guitarist Mick Mars, who cofounded Mötley Crüe in 1981, has filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming they ousted him from the group and cut him out of profits. Mars has asked a judge to allow him to inspect the band’s business records and to be awarded attorneys’ fees and other unspecified money.
The lawsuit, obtained by Rolling Stone, claims that Mars (real name Robert Alan Deal) announced he could no longer tour with the group due to his ongoing battle with ankylosing spondylitis — a disease that causes vertebrae to fuse —but that he would still participate in residencies and concerts that don’t involve excessive travel. According to the suit, the group then decided to “fire” Mars via a shareholders’ meeting as an officer of Crüe’s corporation and six other related businesses.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Mötley Crüe Touring, Inc., Mötley Crüe, Inc., Red, White and Crue, Inc., Masters 2000, Inc., Cruefest, LLC, Mötley Records, LLC and Masters 2008, LLC, among other unnamed business entities and people associated with Crüe’s corporations. Mars claims he’s a 25 percent shareholder in each of the businesses.
Mars also alleges he requested to see business docs from each corporation to assess whether their actions were legal but was so far denied.
“It is a tragedy that, after 41 successful years of playing together, a band would callously attempt to throw out a founding member who is unable to tour anymore because he has a chronic disease,” Mars’ lawyer, Ed McPherson, tells Rolling Stone. “Mick has been pushed around for far too long and we are not going to let that continue.” (A rep for the band did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)
The lawsuit further claims that Mars initiated the founding of the band, picked singer Vince Neil (though Neil knew drummer Tommy Lee in high school), and named the band Mötley Crüe. Mars and bassist Nikki Sixx were the only musicians to stay in the band since its formation, making them the only two consistent shareholders in its businesses throughout its history.
The lawsuit rehashes the group’s storied histories, including their battles with heroin addiction and alcoholism. It references Neil’s drunk-driving accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, and his arrests for choking a prostitute, punching a soundman, and for assaulting a female autograph seeker, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also goes on to mention the time Lee pleaded no contest to felony spousal abuse after he was accused of kicking his then-wife Pamela Anderson while she held their seven-week-old baby and Sixx’s conviction of inciting a riot at a Greensboro, North Carolina concert. According to the filing, Sixx was also “jailed in Japan when, under the influence of Halcion and alcohol, and reacting to finding out about Mars’s relationship with a backup dancer (whom Mars ultimately married), hurled a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at Mars to scare him, and ended up injuring a random Japanese passenger in the head when the bottle shattered on the front wall of a railroad car on a bullet train. (All of these crimes, Mars claims, constitute fireable offenses in Mötley Crüe’s band agreement, and he underscores that he’s never done such things.)
Mars further alleges that Sixx would make “band decisions” without telling the other musicians and would ask his bandmates to sign documents “immediately” on Fridays at 5 p.m.
The suit also chronicles Mars’ longtime battle with ankylosing spondylitis, which he was first diagnosed with at age 27. “This disease caused Mars’ lower spine to seize up and freeze completely solid, causing scoliosis in his back, and also compressing his spine downward, so that he is now at least three inches shorter than he was in high school,” the suit states. “His spine is now completely seized from pelvis to skull, a condition known as ‘bamboo spine.’ He cannot move his head in any direction.” The disease is so taxing, he says in the suit, that he must sleep 24 hours after traveling overseas.
Mars accuses Sixx of “gaslighting” him in the suit, alleging that Sixx would tell him he “had some sort of cognitive dysfunction, and that his guitar playing was subpar, claiming that Mars forgot chords, and sometimes started playing the wrong songs.”
After the band decided to embark on the Stadium Tour, which was originally 12 dates, Mars told the group it would be his last tour, but that he would be open to performing at concerts that didn’t require much travel. He claims the band’s management told him the proposed arrangement would work. Then the 12 dates became 36, and Mars nevertheless continued.
Throughout the tour, the lawsuit claims, Sixx allegedly continued gaslighting Mars about his playing, all while Sixx himself wasn’t playing the bass. “Astonishingly, Sixx made these claims about Mars’ playing while he (Sixx) did not play a single note on bass during the entire U.S. tour,” the lawsuit states. “Ironically, 100% of Sixx’s bass parts were nothing but recordings. Sixx was seen fist pumping in the air with his strumming hand, while the bass part was playing.”
“In fact, a significant portion of Neil’s vocals were also pre-recorded,” it continues. “Even some of Lee’s drum parts were recordings. Some fans actually noticed that Lee was walking toward his drum set as they heard his drum part begin.”
Mars does admit to playing the wrong chords in the suit, blaming faulty in-ear monitors.
The guitarist played his last gig with the band on September 9, 2022. He alleges that a little over a month later, an attorney gave him paperwork that effectively cut him out of the group and its businesses. According to the paperwork, Mars’ 25 percent share in the band’s touring profits would decrease to five percent for the rest of the year and become 0 percent thereafter. The same would be true of merchandise that depicted Mars’ replacement, John 5. The band then held a meeting, he claims, to ouster him. Meanwhile, Mars announced his retirement from touring on October 26, and the group then announced John 5’s arrival.
“While change is never easy, we accept Mick’s decision to retire from the band due to the challenges with his health,” Neil, Sixx, and Lee said in a joint statement at the time. “We have watched Mick manage his ankylosing spondylitis for decades, and he has always managed it with utmost courage and grace. To say ‘enough is enough’ is the ultimate act of courage. Mick’s sound helped define Mötley Crüe from the minute he plugged in his guitar at our very first rehearsal together. The rest, as they say, is history. We’ll continue to honor his musical legacy.”
But Behind the scenes, Mars informed the band that he was not leaving the group or giving up his roles in their businesses, the suit claims. His lawyer continued negotiating his shares in the band’s profits and businesses. The band ultimately responded with a demand for arbitration, “essentially suing him” to claim that he was no longer a shareholder. “They clearly commenced an arbitration, rather than a public lawsuit, so that the public would not be aware of the deplorable manner in which they treated their ‘brother’ of 41 years,” the suit states.
Crüe, meanwhile, have a handful of dates booked alongside Def Leppard for their ongoing Stadium Tour this summer.