Voice judge Guy Sebastian didn’t notice almost $1million he says agent Titus Day kept from him
Guy Sebastian had so much money coming in from so many sources the music star says he did not notice almost $1million missing from his bank account for years.
The Australian Idol winner and judge on The Voice had completely trusted his manager to keep him informed of his various incomes and pay him what he earned.
That trust is now gone and Sebastian’s manager Titus Day is accused of embezzling not less than $886,175.10 from his marque client over seven years.
Day is facing trial before a jury in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court where Sebastian has been giving evidence against him this week.
The 49-year-old celebrity agent has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing.
Guy Sebastian had so much money coming in from so many quarters the singer said he did not notice almost $1million missing from his bank account for years. The Australian Idol winner is pictured with his wife Jules
Sebastian had trusted his manager Titus Day to keep him informed of his earnings and pay him accordingly. Day is now accused of embezzling not less than $886,175.10 from his marque client over seven years. Sebastian (left) and Day are pictured
The charges relate to allegedly missing royalties, performance fees and payment for an ambassadorship that Sebastian earned between 2013 and 2020 but says he did not receive.
Day is accused of ripping off the Battle Scars singer 50 times for individual sums ranging from $361.34 to $187,524.42 by not transferring funds into his ‘Guytunes’ account.
That top figure comes out of the $494,360 fee Sebastian was paid to support Taylor Swift on the four-city Australian leg of her 2013 world tour, which should have been among the most memorable performances – and paydays – of his career.
Sebastian claims another performance fee of $125,176.06 was never remitted, as well as an ambassadorship worth $57,086.93.
The court case has pitted two men who were once extremely close against each other and dragged in their wives, who had also been friends. And it has revealed Sebastian could command more than $50,000 to play a wedding.
There is no hiding the fame of the Crown’s star witness, with prosecutor David Morters SC describing him to the jury as a recording artist and performer ‘whose name you’re probably all familiar with’.
While it is Day who is on trial, Sebastian has been forced to reveal intimate details of his finances, including sometimes astronomical fees for performances and so-called ‘contra’ deals.
Sebastian has a ‘contra’ deal with Toyota under which he performs concerts and appears at charity events. He is not paid money but has the use of a LandCruiser which is regularly replaced. Sebastian’s wife Jules has a LandCruiser Prado under the same deal.
Sebastian did not agree with Day’s claim he had negotiated a reduction in fees from architect Joe Snell who designed his multimillion-dollar Maroubra home. ‘It works for Mr Snell to have a high-profile client to work for and do a house,’ he said. Sebastian is pictured at home
Sebastian said he never had a formal contract with Day and only became aware of an international copyright deal he signed in 2013 two years after he sacked him in 2017.
Morters told the jury Sebastian had not noticed the allegedly missing payments which went into accounts controlled by Day while he had money coming in from so many clients.
Defence barrister Dominic Toomey SC said Day could account for all the money and suggested Sebastian might have an ulterior motive for pursuing his client via police.
Sebastian had given about three hours of evidence on Wednesday before Judge Peter Zahra fell ill and the case was adjourned until next week.
The 40-year-old, who is in the middle of a national tour promoting his latest album and appeared to be concert-fit, tested positive to Covid on Thursday.
Singer Guy Sebastian’s performance fees have been revealed at his former manager’s embezzlement trial. They included almost $500,000 for supporting superstar Taylor Swift on the four-city Australian leg of her The Red Tour in 2013. Swift is pictured
Sebastian and Day: The early years
Sebastian told the court he first rose to prominence after winning Australian Idol in 2003. That title brought a five-album deal with BMG Records (now owned by Sony) and a three-year contract with Caplice management.
When the Caplice contract ended he joined 22 Management, owned by agent Sean Anderson, after meeting Day through his wife Courtney who was an artists and repertoire representative with Sony.
Sebastian said from the start he dealt almost exclusively with Day, who is a qualified lawyer and music industry specialist.
‘I thought it was actually his company for a while until be alerted me otherwise,’ he said. ‘I had very little to do with Sean Anderson as far as my carer went.’
Sebastian had about nine months to run on his 22 Management contract in July 2009 when Day approached him with a proposal to leave Anderson.
‘Titus said that he was starting a new company, a management company, and asked if I would go with him to join that company and I said yes,’ Sebastian told the court.
‘He would refer to me as his foundation client, a client that he needed to start a new company.’
Sebastian won the first series of Australian Idol in 2003 over Shannon Noll, another former Day client. Among the prizes were a five-album deal with BMG records and a three-year management contract. He is pictured left with Noll in Sydney in 2004
Sebastian strikes out with Day
Sebastian, who was twice reminded to speak in a loud and clear voice as he answered questions, said his career was going well when he left 22 Management but he was not entirely comfortable discussing his success so publicly.
‘I was right in the middle of releasing music, I believe it was the Like It Like That album,’ he said. ‘It was quite a busy time.
‘I was signed to Sony Music, I’d had numerous number one records, I think it was two number one albums, two number one singles and some top five, top ten singles.
‘I was very proud of what I had achieved at that time.’
After negotiations, Sebastian agreed to pay Anderson a 15 per cent commission and Day 5 per cent until his old contract expired in April 2010.
As part of the termination Sebastian agreed to perform for free at Anderson’s 40th birthday party.
Day’s charges relate to allegedly missing royalties, performance fees and payment for an ambassadorship that Sebastian (above) earned between 2013 and 2020 but did not receive
Sebastian did not sign a contract with Day’s company 6 Degrees but understood a draft document was essentially the same as his previous deal with 22 Management.
He could not recall if he ever sent the draft to his lawyer and said it did not reflect the arrangement he and Day reached.
Sebastian said he never accepted a ‘trailing commission’ clause in their arrangement which would allow Day to take a proportion of his earnings if they ever split.
The ARIA award-winner described a trailing commission as suitable for a performer such as a busker who had not yet established themselves.
‘I believed that it wasn’t relevant to me because whoever I signed to was earning money from day dot,’ he told the court.
When Anderson learnt there had been no trailing commission clause in his contract with Sebastian he had said, ‘Who the f*** agreed to that?’
The hit-maker should have received $49,114.62 for singing at Allianz Stadium in Sydney during the British and Irish Lions rugby tour in 2013 but says he didn’t Sebastian is pictured performing at Game 3 of the 2019 State of Origin series at ANZ Stadium in Sydney
Sebastian said he had not sighted or signed most contracts with companies using his services and rarely paid much attention when he did.
‘One of the benefits of my manager was he was a contract lawyer, so I trusted that if he put something in front of me he wouldn’t do so unless it was ready to be signed,’ he said.
Sebastian generally left Day to handle ‘pretty much everything that I did professionally in the music industry and with television work.’
‘He would be responsible for organising gigs and booking them, booking tours, negotiating with the record label at certain times, basically everything that I did professionally was done by Mr Day and 6 Degrees.’
Sebastian brought plenty of business to 6 Degrees and after the singer paid costs such as band members’ wages Day took a commission of 20 per cent plus GST.
Day (above) is accused of ripping off Sebastian 50 times for sums ranging from $361.34 to $187,524.42. He has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant
Massive paydays and ‘contra’ deals
As well as the huge fee for his spot on Swift’s four-city The Red Tour in December 2013 the hit-maker should have received $49,114.62 for singing at Allianz Stadium in Sydney during the British and Irish Lions rugby tour the same year.
Sebastian charged $54,341 to sing at a wedding in Jakarta in July 2017 and $10,000 for another wedding at Doltone House in Sydney two months later.
McDonald’s paid the entertainer $66,000 to appear at a conference in September 2017 a month after Harvey Norman forked out $33,000 for him to perform a gig.
The court heard Day had prepared a list of ‘contra’ deals Sebastian made during their time together, outside monetary payment for his performances or endorsements.
‘Contra is basically an exchange for promoting somebody’s product,’ Sebastian said. ‘You might do a gig for somebody for an exchange of goods as opposed to actual money.’
Sebastian had such an arrangement with Toyota under which he performed concerts, appeared at charity events and promoted its association with National Tree Day.
He was not paid money but given the use of a LandCruiser which was regularly replaced. His wife Jules had a LandCruiser Prado under the same deal.
Sebastian was also given a Bluefin boat in a deal he arranged himself.
‘I contacted Bluefin personally and they had told me they were about to do a festival and instead of buying a boat why don’t you perform at the festival and we’ll give you a boat instead,’ he told the court.
If I’m going to be an ambassador for something I want to use the gear, try the gear, and know I actually like it
Yamaha, for which he was an ambassador, gave him a motor to go on the Bluefin hull, ‘because I’d done some things for them and never asked for payment.’
Sebastian did not agree with Day’s claim he had negotiated a reduction in fees from architect Joe Snell who designed his multimillion-dollar Maroubra home and was a friend of his then manager.
‘It works for Mr Snell to have a high-profile client to work for and do a house,’ he said. ‘He’s an amazing architect as well.’
Sebastian did receive a public address system, headphones, speakers and amplifier from audio company Bose, which also paid him $82,500.
‘If I’m going to be an ambassador for something I want to use the gear, try the gear, and know I actually like it,’ he said.
Sebastian received a camera from Canon and in another ambassadorship was given AirAsia flights as well as $75,000. He had a Dreamworld ambassadorship worth $96,250.
Sebastian is currently on tour for his recent T.R.U.T.H. album and is appearing as a judge on Network Seven’s latest series of The Voice. Left to right are The Voice judges Rita Ora, Keith Urban, Sebastian and Jessica Mauboy
The bitter break-up and ‘anomalies’
The court heard Sebastian’s relationship with Day had deteriorated in 2016 and they parted company after a meeting also attended by their wives at the 6 Degrees office in Paddington on November 14, 2017.
Morters said: ‘The break-up was acrimonious, or hostile.’
The court heard Sebastian subsequently found ‘anomalies’ in financial records suggesting he was still owed payments by Day and sought legal advice.
Sebastian allegedly identified performances for which he had not been paid and was not satisfied with Day’s explanations. He launched a civil claim against Day in the Federal Court in July 2018.
Day made a counter claim against Sebastian alleging he was owed money, which led to an examination of Day’s banking records allegedly revealing further anomalies.
Sebastian told the court he only learnt of an April 2014 deal with the Montreal-based Premier Muzik to collect international copyright payments on his behalf in January 2020.
Day was arrested at his eastern suburbs home in July 2020 after Sebastian went to police.
Toomey said the case against his client was essentially a business dispute which should have stayed in the Federal Court.
Each man had claimed the other owed him money, which was ‘hardly surprising’ in cases where a commercial relationship had soured.
Toomey told the jury that Day had an answer to every one of ‘these misconceived charges’ and those answers were sometimes clear and obvious.
‘You may wonder whether the authorities – particularly the police – were even wilfully blind to that,’ he said. ‘Seduced, perhaps, by Mr Sebastian’s high profile.
‘Indeed, you might even wonder whether there was an ulterior purpose on the part of Sebastian and the police in the pursuit of criminal charges.’
Day, who has also represented television presenters Sophie Monk and Grant Denyer, was entrusted to manage Sebastian’s income. Day is pictured outside the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney