Trouble for Prince -- The Purple One's problems with the Grammys, Sinead O'Connor, and his managers

Minnesota has enjoyed a mild winter, but homeboy Prince has been experiencing a big chill. His critically acclaimed Graffiti Bridge soundtrack was shut out for a Grammy nomination (though he is up for writing — in 1985 — the song of the year, ”Nothing Compares 2 U”). He got raspberries for buying back the TV rights to his performance at the recent Rock in Rio II festival, thus preventing MTV from airing his portion of the show in its TV special. (He was reticent because he was trying out new material, sources say.) And his Graffiti Bridge movie, the sequel to his 1984 hit, Purple Rain, bombed big- time. Sinéad O’Connor is on his case too, over a predawn December spat at his L.A. pad. She claims he threatened violence because he was upset about her success with ”Nothing,” and she reportedly says she doesn’t want to sing it anymore.

And now three of Prince’s ex-managers are suing, claiming Prince’s bizarre business decisions cost them money. Earlier this month, his longtime managers (since 1979), Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo, and Steve Fargnoli, who were fired by Prince in late 1988, demanded $600,000 in severance pay plus punitive damages, charging that Prince made financial and marketing decisions against their advice. They accuse the hyperproductive star of releasing his records in competition with one another, devising abnormal marketing plans, and refusing to participate in customary marketing activities. They claim Prince violated their contract by not doing ”all things necessary and desirable to promote [his] career and earnings therefrom.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of other managerial woes for the Purple One. After the managers’ dismissal at the end of his financially disastrous Lovesexy tour, Prince hired Albert Magnoli, the director of Purple Rain, who exited after a disagreement over plans for Graffiti Bridge. Enter Rod Stewart’s two managers to produce Bridge and arrange the tours in Europe and Japan last year; they lasted for little more than a year. Finally, last December, Prince sued his former accountant and former attorney, charging them with breach of fiduciary duty and negligent misrepresentation.

Prince is now managing himself, while assigning some day-to-day chores to publicist Jill Willis and bodyguard-turned-aide-de-camp, Gilbert Davison, and remains as secretive as ever. He once required his managers to sign a contract in which Prince noted, ”I highly value my privacy and I make all efforts to maintain confidentiality. All such information (acquired in the course of working for Prince) shall be deemed to be confidential, private, secret, and sensitive.” Folks in Minneapolis and Hollywood, however, are asking whether the Big Grape is going very publicly sour.