Lawsuit: Former Roots Bass Player Sues Questlove, Black Thought

Leonard "Hub" Hubbard says he's owed a lot of money.

Leonard "Hub" Hubbard -- second from left -- and other members of the Roots in happier times. (AP Photo)

Leonard “Hub” Hubbard — second from left — and other members of the Roots in happier times. (AP Photo)

Leonard “Hub” Hubbard joined The Roots in 1992, back when the Roots were just a really good local band and long before Questlove and friends showed up on America’s television screens five nights a week with Jimmy Fallon. But Hubbard left the group in 2007 after a cancer diagnosis, and now he is taking Questlove and others to court.

Hubbard filed a civil lawsuit against Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Roots manager Shawn Gee, Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter, and a variety of Roots-related LLCs claiming that he is owed money — potentially a lot of money.

Hubbard maintains that he was a founding shareholder a company created in 1993 to handle the business end of The Roots, and that he is still a shareholder today. (State records don’t necessarily show all of the shareholders of a given company.) According to the lawsuit, Hubbard is a 13% shareholder of the company, while Questlove and Black Thought get 37% each and founding member Malik Smart — who has an on-again, off-again relationship with the band — is entitled to the remaining 13% of that company.

The company owns the Roots trademark, and Hubbard maintains that it is also the company that receives any payments and royalties for non-digital sales of the band’s music. In other words, the company could be worth quite a bit, and the lawsuit alleges that Hubbard hasn’t been getting his fair share. He says that he was receiving $25,000 annually in publishing payments and that this figured dropped down to $7,000, without explanation. Hubbard adds that he’s asked to see “the books” but that the others refused his request.

Hubbard also says that he is a shareholder in another company, one that the Roots started in 1999 to deal with their digital sales. (Hey, it’s the music business. It’s complicated.) In that company, Hubbard claims to be a 25% shareholder, but he says that he’s only ever gotten one payment from it: a 2014 check for $4,780.

The lawsuit alleges that Questlove and the others misrepresented the earnings of these companies (there are other companies mentioned as well) while paying themselves very well from the real earnings and leaving Hubbard out in the cold. The suit accuses them of fraudulent transfer, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy and constructive fraud, among other offenses.

Questlove and Gee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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