Lindsey Buckingham has filed a lawsuit against Fleetwood Mac for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, among other charges, according to legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. The group parted ways with Buckingham in January and replaced him with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Neil Finn of Crowded House. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, states that he asked the group to postpone their tour three months so he could play shows with his solo band. He says plans were in place for the Rumours-era lineup to play 60 shows across North America when he was let go without warning.
“This action is necessary to enforce Buckingham’s right to share in the economic opportunities he is entitled to as a member of the partnership created to operate the business of Fleetwood Mac,” the complaint states.
“Last January, Fleetwood Mac made the decision to continue to tour without me,” Buckingham said in a statement to Rolling Stone regarding the suit. “I remain deeply surprised and saddened, as this decision ends the beautiful 43-year legacy we built together. Over the last eight months, our many efforts to come to an agreement have unfortunately proved elusive. I’m looking forward to closure, and will always remain proud of all that we created, and what that legacy represents.”
A spokesperson for Fleetwood Mac provided Rolling Stone with a statement on the lawsuit: “It’s impossible for the band to offer comment on a legal complaint they have not seen. It’s fairly standard legal procedure to service the complaint to the parties involved, something that neither Mr. Buckingham nor his legal counsel have done. Which makes one wonder what the true motivations are when servicing press first with a legal complaint before the parties in dispute.”
Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac for the first time in 1987 shortly after the release of their hit album Tango in the Night, but he re-joined in 1996 along with the rest of the Rumours-era lineup for the highly-lucrative Dance reunion album and tour. He remained in the lineup over the next two decades, though old tensions remained, especially in the past few years when Stevie Nicks refused to record a new album with the band.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn’t going to sell,” Nicks told Rolling Stone last year. “What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.”
Buckingham had a very different read on the situation and wanted the band to be an ongoing creative unit. In 2012, he attempted to rally the group to record a new album, but was unable to get anything more together than a four-song EP. “Stevie wasn’t really into doing it,” he told Rolling Stone. “She wasn’t into it at all. But I went ahead and got John [McVie] and Mick [Fleetwood] over from Hawaii and we cut eight new songs of mine. All of them were done in the proper key for Stevie’s voice, if she were to sing the songs…That didn’t happen. I really just think she didn’t want to do an album.”
The group toured in 2013 and again the following year when Christine McVie returned to the band after a two-decade break, but things grew tense when they began plotting out another tour for this year. “We were supposed to go into rehearsal in June and he wanted to put it off until next November,” Nicks told Rolling Stone in April. “That’s a long time. I just did 70 shows [on a solo tour]. As soon as I finish one thing, I dive back into another. Why would we stop? We don’t want to stop playing music. We don’t have anything else to do. This is what we do.”
The group then recruited guitarist Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn into the lineup to take his place. Despite that, they were unwilling to say that Buckingham was fired. “Words like ‘fired’ are ugly references as far as I’m concerned,” Fleetwood told Rolling Stone in April. “Not to hedge around, but we arrived at the impasse of hitting a brick wall. This was not a happy situation for us in terms of the logistics of a functioning band. To that purpose, we made a decision that we could not go on with him. Majority rules in term of what we need to do as a band and go forward.”
Earlier this month, Buckingham broke his silence about the situation in an interview with Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke. In his telling, he learned he was leaving the band on January 28th when Irving Azoff, the group’s manager, called him up while he was watching the Grammy’s. Just two days earlier, Fleetwood Mac played the MusiCares benefit show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. According to Azoff, Stevie Nicks was angry that Buckingham smirked while she delivered a speech at the event. She was also upset over his angry reaction to the decision to play a recording of “Rhiannon” while they took the stage. “Stevie never wants to be on a stage with you again,” Azoff told Buckingham.
The guitarist thought that meant that Nicks was leaving the band. It was only a few days later when nobody in the band would return his e-mails that he feared something else was going on. He phoned up Azoff and learned that was “getting ousted” from the band and they were going to carry on without him. “I don’t think there was ever anything that was just cause to be fired,” he says. “We have all done things that were not constructive. All of us have worn on each other’s psyches at times. That’s the history of the group.”