205 Flava says it paid ''Idol'' Ruben under the table. Sued by Studdard, the firm says it did compensate him, possibly violating his ''Idol'' contract

By Gary Susman
August 06, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ruben Studdard: Branimir Kvartuc/ZUMA Press/NewsCom
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”American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard filed a lawsuit last week against 205 Flava, makers of the jerseys he made famous during the competition, arguing that the company has profited from his image without compensating him. But the company says it secretly paid Studdard to wear the shirts, emblazoned with the area code of his native Birmingham, in possible violation of his contract with the ”Idol” producers, which forbade him from seeking outside endorsements.

The firm’s owners and lawyers held a press conference on Monday, where they displayed several checks made out to the singer’s brother, Kevin Studdard, or his manager, Ron Edwards, so as not to tip off the Fox network. They said they paid Ruben $1,000 a week at first, then $1,500 after he asked for more money, for a total of $10,000 in payouts, the Birmingham News reports. He told the owners to ”keep this confidential,” their lawyer told the News.

Michael Jaffa, vice president of business and legal affairs for American Idol Productions, told the News that ”Idol” contestants were not allowed to contract with outside sponsors during the competition. ”It was just that we have major sponsors like Old Navy,” he said. ”There were issues promoting a brand in competition with our sponsors.”

Studdard’s lawyer, Byron Perkins, who has argued that Studdard helped boost 205 Flava’s sales by $2 million, did not comment on the firm’s press conference disclosures. ”The public will hear from us soon,” he told the News.

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