A judge said Thursday he would take control of Marion “Suge” Knight’s assets, including his Death Row Records label, after finding the rap mogul had avoided paying a $107 million civil court judgment.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian said Knight, who co-founded Death Row with rapper Dr. Dre in the early 1990s and helped launch the careers of performers Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, could stave off the order if he fully disclosed his assets in a debtor’s exam set for April 1.
Sohigian said he would appoint a court officer to take over Knight’s finances because he had failed to make good on a $107 million judgment won last March by Lydia Harris, who claimed he cheated her out of a 50 percent stake in the rap label.
“Because he had a long history of deceiving the court and avoiding payment, I asked the court to appoint a receiver to take over,” Harris’ attorney, Rex Julian Beaber, said. “If Knight cooperates in providing the information, he can ask the court to remove the receiver. But I don’t think there’s a chance in hell Knight is going to cooperate.”
Beaber said Knight, 40, who saw his rap empire wither while he served two stints in prison since 1996, had spent the past year “playing games” in court to avoid paying the judgment.
“There has been a very, very protracted history of difficulty in the case,” Sohigian said in issuing his ruling.
A lawyer for Knight, Dermot Givens, said later the judge had not formally signed an order taking control of the rap mogul’s assets, and Givens expected to have it overturned by proving Knight and Harris had reached a settlement in the case.
“In May of 2005, she received a million dollars and rights to various music, and she signed a settlement agreement,” Givens told Reuters. He said Harris was trying to back out of that settlement under pressure from her ex-husband, Michael, who would be entitled to share in the original $107 million judgment.
The judge has not signed off on any settlement between Knight and Harris. Beaber and a lawyer for Michael Harris, Steven Goldberg, said there was no such agreement and Goldberg predicted Knight would ultimately lose control of his record label.
“I think it’s a death knell for Death Row,” Goldberg told reporters outside court.