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Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars files lawsuit against band, says he was gaslit and pushed out of group

Mars’ lawsuit alleges that the group — particularly Nikki Sixx, had a pattern of belittling him for years, telling him he had cognitive issues and insulting him about alleged poor playing on tour, including a stadium outing he completed with the band in 2022.
From left, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars of Motley Crue in 1985.
From left, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars of Motley Crue in 1985. Ross Marino Archive / MediaPunch via AP
/ Source: Variety

Mick Mars, Motley Crue’s guitarist of 41 years, has filed legal papers bringing deep divisions between him and the other three members of the band out into the open.

The suit only demands that the group hand over relevant documents about their businesses in advance of arbitration. But the wealth of details in Mars’ filing offers a look at the apparent tension between him and the others, in what he says has been a pattern of “gaslighting” in an attempt to kick him out of the group.

The paperwork was filed in Los Angeles County’s Superior Court Thursday filed through Mars’ attorney, Edwin F. McPherson, and says the band has deliberately withheld information about the various Motley Crue businesses that he has a 25% ownership share in. Mars says the band has demanded he sign a severance agreement that would divest him of those and other future interests, in return for a 5% stake in the group’s 2023 tour, which is going on without him.

The suit gives insight into what Mars alleges was happening behind the scenes when he and other band members issued conflicting statements last October.

At the time, Mars issued a statement saying he was giving up his touring duties as a result of worsening health issues, but otherwise would remain a member of the group. The following day, the other members issued their own statement, saying that Mars had “retired” completely from the band, without qualification.

The Stadium Tour: Mötley Crüe and Poison
From left, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe perform at Nationals Park on June 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Live Nation

Mars' lawsuit alleges that the group — particularly Nikki Sixx, a leader of the band in business matters — had a pattern of belittling him for years, telling him he had cognitive issues and insulting him about alleged poor playing on tour, including the stadium outing he completed with the band in 2022. In return, Mars alleges that the other members of the group engaged in partial or complete miming on that tour, saying that he was the only one performing completely live from the top to bottom of each show.

Motley Crue responded to Mars’ lawsuit, with the group’s attorneys contending that Mars already is out — having resigned, effectively, in their view, when he announced he was halting touring for good.

“After the last tour, Mick publicly resigned from Mötley Crüe,” said Sasha Frid, the band’s litigation attorney. “Despite the fact that the band did not owe Mick anything — and with Mick owing the band millions in advances that he did not pay back — the band offered Mick a generous compensation package to honor his career with the band. Manipulated by his manager and lawyer, Mick refused and chose to file this ugly public lawsuit.”

Motley Crue’s attorneys also provided Variety with signed declarations from seven members of the touring crew that was out with the band when they toured with Mars for the last time on 36 stadium dates in 2022, alleging that his performances at the shows were under par and created problems for the entire group.

Variety asked about the discrepancy between the firm’s statement Thursday afternoon that Mars “publicly resigned,” and his own press release of last October that said “Mick will continue as a member of the band, but can no longer handle the rigors of the road.” The Crue camp responded that dropping out as a touring member was legally tantamount to quitting the group altogether.

“That’s correct. Retiring from touring is resigning from the band,” said Frid. “The band’s primary function is to tour and perform concerts. And as you saw from the amendment, if a shareholder resigns, he cannot receive any compensation from touring — which is what Mick is trying to get. It’s clear-cut that Mick is not entitled to any more money.” 

Frid also responded to Mars' allegation that members of the group engaged in partial or complete miming while touring.

“Equally unfortunate are his claims about the band’s live performances. Mötley Crüe always performs its songs live, but during the last tour, Mick struggled to remember chords, played the wrong songs and made constant mistakes which led to his departure from the band," Frid said. “There are multiple declarations from the band’s crew attesting to his decline.”

“The band did everything to protect him (and) tried to keep these matters private to honor Mick’s legacy and take the high road,” Frid said. “Unfortunately, Mick chose to file this lawsuit to badmouth the band. The band feels empathy for Mick, wishes him well and hopes that he can get better guidance from his advisors who are driven by greed.”

In response to the band’s apparent position in their demand letters that he was being let go for cause, Mars’ attorney recounted a history of felony convictions on the part of the other members — such as Vince Neil’s manslaughter conviction — and alleged drug and alcohol use, saying that the guitarist has the least reasons of anyone in the group to be let go on the basis of their decades-old agreement that gave everyone a 25% share.

Mars’ action comes in the form of a “verified petition for writ of mandate to compel inspection and copying of books, records and documents” held by a half-dozen businesses that fall under the Motley Crue umbrella. He further says that the paperwork the group asked him to sign asked him to divest himself of associated businesses that he didn’t even know existed until now.

When he announced his retirement from the road last fall, shortly after completing a 36-date stadium tour, Mars, 71, cited crippling pain from the debilitating disease he has had since age 27, Ankylosing Spondylitis, described as “a chronic, inflammatory form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine and pelvis.”

Mars says in his suit that he is no longer able to move his head from side to side as a result of the disease. “Over the years, this disease caused Mars’s lower spine to seize up and freeze completely solid, causing scoliosis in his back, and also compressing his spine downward, so that he is now at least three inches shorter than he was in high school. His spine is now completely seized from pelvis to skull, a condition known as ‘bamboo spine.’”

Nevertheless, despite those issues, Mars claims he can still execute his parts perfectly, and is ready and able to participate in anything that does not subject him to the rigors of the road.

Besides the request to the court for a peremptory writ of mandate to obtain, records, McPherson also asks for the reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and other costs associated with the suit. It does not involve any requests for damages or a judgment on the issues that would theoretically be taken up in arbitration.

The other band members are not named individually as respondents in the suit, which is addressed to Motley Crue Touring Inc., Motley Crue Inc., Red, White & Crue Inc., Masters 2000 Inc., Cruefest LLC, Motley Records LLC, Masters 2008 LLC and unnamed Does.