Eddie Murphy learned early in his career that some battles are not worth fighting.
If Murphy had not settled with his former manager who claimed he was entitled to 25 percent of his mainstream earnings, his career in Hollywood might have been short-lived.
The $30 Million Lawsuit
In the 1980s, Murphy was a rising star. He helped revitalize “Saturday Night Live” as a cast member and starred in the highly successful film “Beverly Hills Cop,” the highest-grossing movie of 1984 and the first blockbuster to feature a Black lead character. However, his success was threatened when King Broder, a theatrical agent, sued him for a whopping $30 million, alleging breach of contract.
In March 1987, Broder claimed that he had managed Murphy from 1980 to 1983 by “smooth[ing] out his act, advis[ing] him as to his dress, ha[ving] photographs taken, help[ing] prepare comedy material and d[oing] many other things for the benefit of (Murphy),” he said at the time, TheThings reported.
When Murphy was 18 years old, Broder claimed the young comedian signed a three-year contract with him. Broder said the contract included an additional three-year clause, and that he was entitled to a 25 percent commission on Murphy’s earnings until 1986. Murphy denied that Broder managed his career, and said he signed the contract under false pretenses. He claimed he was led to believe that Broder managed stars like Tina Turner, Neil Sedaka, and Teddy Pendergrass.
As per a 1987 article from The Los Angeles Times, Murphy was sent to audition for “Saturday Night Live” by Broder. Landing the gig kickstarted Murphy’s career. However, after getting the job Murphy reportedly cut ties with Broder.
The dispute went to trial in Nassau County, New York. Broder’s son believed that his father, a Jewish comedian turned theater manager, was in the right due to a technicality. The son also accused Murphy of making anti-Semitic comments during the ordeal. This claim by the son seemed to have an impact on the outcome of the lawsuit.
Murphy’s next move was to make a settlement despite having vowed not to settle, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The settlement amount was not disclosed, but Murphy even joked about how much money he had left from the settlement.
“We settled because it was something that got blown out of proportion,” Murphy said. “I still have a couple of dollars left.”
“I believe that the jury would have felt strongly about what I said,” the comedian added, indicating he thought the contract dispute “was blown out of proportion,” UPI reported.
Leonard Marks, the attorney representing Murphy at the time, said that the trial “could have gone on for another two weeks” had they not had settled the dispute, which could have affected Murphy’s ability to return back to work.
Although Marks and Murphy settled, the attorney states that the poll from the trial jurors showed five out of six would have awarded no damages to Broder, effectively saying the former manager was on the verge of losing the case.
The one juror who thought Broder was owed something thought a $5,000 award was sufficient.
Broder said he was “very pleased” with the outcome, which will remain confidential.
With the lawsuit behind him and a settlement presumably below $30 million, Murphy was able to build his $200 million fortune.