Published December 15, 2005
NEW YORK – One of Dave Chappelle's former employees says the comic asked him to be his manager for nine months beginning last year, but never paid him.
In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Mustafa Abuelhija said Chappelle told him in September 2004 that he could be his personal manager and spread the word to his financial aides but never put it in writing.
The deal outlined in Chappelle's business and financial records called for Abuelhija to receive 5 percent of Chappelle's revenue from personal appearances and 10 percent of entertainment deals, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.
The suit said Abuelhija was owed his cut of an initial payment of $4.5 million from Comedy Central for the third and fourth seasons of "Chappelle's Show." The deal was reportedly to be worth $50 million, but the comic walked out after doing half of the third-season episodes.
Since disappearing in May, Chappelle, 32, has since resumed performing live standup. Comedy Central recently announced that it will broadcast next spring the four episodes' worth of sketches he filmed before his exit.
The lawsuit said Abuelhija was fired by Chappelle at a San Francisco hotel in June 2005 and had received only $40,000 as an advance against the sum Chappelle owed him in commissions as a personal manager.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleged, Chappelle had earned $2.2 million from personal appearances and about $6 million in entertainment deals including the contract for his show.
Abuelhija, who met Chappelle when he managed a New York comedy club in 2000, also said he produced the movie "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" but never received the producer credit to which he was entitled. The film, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival in September, is to be released in March.
The lawsuit seeks nearly $1 million in damages and an unspecified sum for a percentage of royalties.
Chappelle's lawyer, David Smith, had no comment.