Lloyd’s, the London-based insurance underwriter, is proud of its reputation as the company that “specializes in unusual risks.” They include: the legs of Betty Grable, Rudolf Nureyev, Michael Flatley and David Beckham; the breasts of Dolly Parton; the hands of Keith Richards and, moving away from body parts, the 69.42 carat diamond Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor.
The company’s vintage (founded in 1688) and its ye olde nickname (Lloyd’s used to be called “Lloyd’s of London”) gives it a special aura. Some call Lloyd’s “venerable.”
But Kanye West does not venerate Lloyd’s. He and his company, Very Good Touring, are engaged in a battle with the insurance underwriting giant over a multimillion dollar policy purchased for West’s 2016 Saint Pablo Tour to cover the possibility it might get canceled, which some part of it did.
And now West’s lawsuit against Lloyd’s, filed in a federal court in California earlier this week, is shaping up to be one of the ugliest superstar insurance disputes since Michael Jackson’s estate took on Lloyd’s for concert losses due to his death in 2009.
A quick summary: West paid his premiums, hundreds of thousands of dollars of them. Lloyd’s hasn’t paid the millions West is seeking to cover the losses from the cancellation. West believes the company is trying to use “unfounded” allegations about marijuana use as a reason for not paying, the lawsuit says.
And he accuses Lloyd’s of trying to smear him with news leaks in an effort to get him to back off.
Lloyd’s has yet to respond to the lawsuit and declined a Washington Post request for comment on the substance of the lawsuit.
West’s tour was riddled with problems. It was split into two legs, and the began on Aug. 12 and ran for 36 shows without incident.
Then on Oct. 2, Kim Kardashian was robbed of more than $10 million of jewelry at gunpoint in her hotel room during Paris Fashion Week. West received the news mid-concert, which he abruptly ended, saying, “I’m sorry, family emergency, I have to stop the show.”
He then postponed two upcoming shows, one in Philadelphia and one in Detroit, USA Today reported.
Then on Nov. 3, West stopped a show about an hour in, citing failing vocal cords. The concertgoers were given free tickets to a replacement show a few weeks later on Nov. 20.
“My voice is so hoarse, I can’t finish the show,” he said, according to Billboard. “I promise I’ll do better next time.”
Things took an even stranger turn two days into the second leg of the tour, during his Nov. 18 show in San Jose, when West paused the show to give a monologue. That’s not uncommon for the rapper, but he appeared more erratic than usual. The country was still stunned by the election of Donald Trump as president, and West told the crowd, “I told y’all I didn’t vote, right? But if I would have voted, I would have voted on Trump.” As The Post noted at the time, it was a strange admission, even for West.
The next evening during a concert in Sacramento, West stopped his show to go on a bizarre 17-minute stream-of-consciousness tirade, during which he criticized his fellow musicians and compared himself to Trump.
“I am putting my career, my life, my public well-standing at risk when I talk to y’all like this,” West told a confused crowd, according to the New York Times. “I’ve been sitting here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life. Even at the risk of my own success, my own career. I’ve been sitting here to give y’all the truth.”
He didn’t finish the show, and soon news reports surfaced that he had been voluntarily hospitalized for exhaustion on Nov. 21. According to the lawsuit, he remained at Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at the University of California at Los Angeles for eight days.
Meanwhile, West canceled the remainder of his North American tour dates.
As The Post’s Elahe Izadi wrote at the time:
“Tickets will be fully refunded at a point of purchase,” Live Nation said in a statement. The entertainment company said it had no further comment explaining the Saint Pablo Tour’s cancellation. People and TMZ, each citing an unnamed source, reported the reason is exhaustion, as West balances his tour with working in fashion design.
On Nov. 22, however, TMZ reported that unnamed sources claimed West was placed on “psychiatric hold” after becoming violent when police came to take him to the hospital. It also reported he suffered from “temporary psychosis.” The tabloid then ran stories over the next few days, all citing unnamed sources, claiming West was “paranoid and profoundly depressed, and he’s been dealing with these issues for a long time.”
On Nov. 24, TMZ wrote, “A well-connected Kanye source tells us Kanye’s psychological problems are significant enough so that his insurance policy — which covers lost profits and financial obligations for canceled concerts due to illness — will almost certainly cover the losses for the 21 concerts he’s canceled.”
Finally, on Dec. 3, TMZ reported West “long suffered from psychological issues controllable by medication,” but “deviated from his prescribed dosage,” which “led to the downward spiral and eventual mental breakdown.” It continued, citing unnamed sources:
It’s still unclear if Kanye flat-out stopped taking some of the pills or just decided to take different amounts — but we’re told he made the biggest changes in the wake of Kim’s Paris robbery. Doctors were able to keep Kanye in the hospital for 8 days, and during that time were able to medicate him, and get him more stable.
Now a word about Lloyd’s and how it operates. It is not an insurance company. Rather, it is a market, as it says, “where members join together to form syndicates to insure risks.” Those risks, which are often enormous, considering that the syndicates insure such items as container ships, are shared among several syndicates.
Concerts are risky too, as they cost a fortune to stage and are subject to the whims of everything from the weather to earthquakes to the health and temperament of performers.
Event coverage typically takes care of cancellations due to perils “beyond the insured’s control.” They generally include a drug clause: Non-appearances stemming from use of alcohol or drugs will not be covered.
West’s suit against Lloyd’s and a number of syndicates that insured his tour is unsparing.
Lloyd’s, it claims, refuses to make a decision on the claim and has given no reason for failing to pay but rather has stalled the process, even though West submitted to independent medical examination and numerous investigative demands.
Lloyd’s has suggested, West’s lawyers said in the suit, “that they may deny coverage of the claim on the unsupportable contention that use of marijuana by Kanye caused the medical condition” that led to cancellation of the tour.
In addition to not paying, West’s suit alleges, the insurer “planted” with news outlets “personal and private information” as part of an effort to intimidate West’s company “to not pursue its rightful claims.”
The lawsuit, which describe the defendants’ behavior as “despicable,” did not say what “confidential” information was leaked to the news media.
By contrast, West’s lawyers portray the erratic performer as a paragon of a client, who has cooperated every step along the way and done whatever he’s been asked.
Lloyd’s, in a statement emailed to The Post, just wouldn’t get into it. “We cannot comment on the specifics of this legal case,” Lloyd’s spokesman wrote.
But Lloyd’s also portrayed itself as a paragon. “The reputation of the market has been built on meeting our obligations quickly and effectively where a claim should be settled. In the last year alone we paid out over £14 billion in claims. The market will always take steps to find a solution amicable to both clients and insurers,” he wrote.
But the statement hinted that the syndicates are not getting the level of cooperation from West and his touring company that the lawsuit suggests.
“Where an agreement cannot be reached, valid claims can only be paid on syndicates being satisfied that they have the information required to make any payment.”
West and his company, meanwhile, are left sounding like millions of ordinary insurance consumers who rage when they can’t get reimbursed for emergency room visits or medication or colonoscopies and when they are forced to fill out form after form.
“Lloyd’s companies enjoy collecting bounteous premiums,” says the lawsuit. But “they don’t enjoy paying claims, no matter how legitimate. Their business model thrives on conducting unending ‘investigation,’ of bona fide coverage requests.
” … The artists think they’re buying peace of mind. The insurers know they’re just selling a ticket to the courthouse.”
West’s demand: $10 million.
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