How Runtown's tenure at Eric Many was characterised by music success, personal pain, threats to life, blackmail, and numerous contract breaches.
Within the coming months, the record would become one of the hottest tracks in the country, and Runtown would sign a new deal with Eric Many Entertainment.
That was the beginning of a contract characterised by music success, and also legal drama.
Douglas Jack Agu (born August 19, 1989), better known by his stage name Runtown, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and producer. He has a diverse fusion musical style, blending Hip-hop, R&B, reggae and rap.
After moving to Lagos from Enugu State with Phyno in 2007, he started doing underground collaborations with artists like J-Martins and Timaya. In 2008, he partnered with Phyno to form a record label called Penthauz during which he released his first two singles: ‘Party Like It's 1980’ and ‘Activity Pikin’.
He collaborated with Davido on his song ‘Gallardo’, which brought him more attention. A few months later, he signed a multi-million Naira contract with Eric-Manny Entertainment owned by Prince Okwudili Umenyiora, aka Dilly, who is the C.E.O of Dilly Motors.
Phyno and Runtown have a relationship that can be tagged as ‘brotherhood’. They regard themselves as a family, having met and built a strong relationship from their teenage years in Enugu. They would later grow their art together, working closely together as producers and recording artists. They are pretty much involved in each other’s’ lives. Acting as support structures and advisory pillars in key decisions.
Penthauze, the music group they created together was designed as an imprint for them to make music and release together.
After the success of ‘Gallardo’, Runtown needed more funding to expand his art, and capitalize on his winning tide.
“Runtown had a hit, but he didn’t have the funding to play at the highest level, and although his first hit song had begun to bring in revenue, but it wasn’t enough,” says a source close to Penthauze.
Phyno was against Runtown getting a ‘sponsor’ or signing a deal. According to our sources, when Runtown consulted him about his plan to bring in external financial partners, he kicked against it. Phyno wanted Runtown to simply drop singles, and promote them with revenue from ‘Gallardo’.
Dilly is the CEO of Dilly Motors and older brother to USA NFL star, Osi Umenyiora. His stepfather is the owner of Germaine Motors and he is the half-brother of Naeto C’s wife, Nicole.
Okwudili Umenyiora first made media headlines in Nigeria due to his home in Lekki, a high-brow residential area of Lagos. The house is reportedly worth $10 million and took four years to reach completion. It's a palatial building with a shimmering giant statue of a Pegasus in front of it.
A few Google searches on Okwudili Umenyiora and you would find his name linked to a criminal past.
Now in Nigeria, Okwudili Umenyiora is businessman and CEO of the Chairman Dilly Motors. He is married to Fifi Umenyiora, and they have three kids.
Runtown met Dilly in 2014 via a mutual friend, Bugo Aneto Okeke. Before their meeting, Bugo managed Eric Many Entertainment for Dilly and later managed Runtown until 2016, when he had a fall out with Dilly.
Dilly was celebrating the birthday of his first son, at the popular kiddies amusement centre; Lekki Fun Turf, when Bugo introduced him to Runtown, and explained the possibility of a record deal. They all engaged in an initial conversation about sponsorship. They also ran into each other at the offices of the VAS company, Mcomm Nigeria, and later scheduled a meeting at Dilly’s famous home in Lekki.
“Initially, they had conversations about a one-year deal, and the possibility of releasing an album,” said a former employee of Eric Many, who asked not to be named for this story. “Dilly didn’t have a proper record label structure then.”
Dilly and Runtown, via Bugo, would later negotiate for another two weeks. Dilly wanted a two-year deal as a minimum requirement. Runtown pulled out, saying he could only sign for a year.
After numerous deliberation and concessions, Bugo prepared the contract with a two-year term, and Runtown signed in May 2014. He would drop an album and leave in 2016. He would also be in charge of his creative direction and own his masters. Interestingly, Bugo, signed for Eric Many, with due approval from Dilly.
The initial contract signed was 50-50 revenue split deal, between Runtown and Eric Many. Runtown would also get to pay Bugwu 15% of his cut. The deal was structured to last for 1 year and on completion, they would renegotiate for a larger percentage for Runtown. This was not adhered to by Dilly.
Prior to this, Dilly had been in the business of music. According to multiple sources, starting a record label was a vanity project to rival E-Money, the Founder of Five Star Music, a label to which Kcee is signed. Incidentally, Dilly's first artist was Presh, Kcee's former partner in the group KceePresh. This cannot be proven. According to another former staff, Dilly used Runtown first as a vanity project. “He just wanted to have an artist under him. All of the people who were his ‘mates’ in Lagos, had record labels. He wanted one too,” our source said.
That vanity showed from the start. Okwudili wanted Runtown to sing his name in songs. Similar to what Emperor Geezy would later mandate Kiss Daniel to do, and what Kcee does for E-Money. He wanted to have his name become popular. But Runtown rejected it. It wasn’t a part of his contract, and he wouldn’t be doing it, except it comes naturally into his songwriting or his ‘vibe’. Dilly’s name made it into a record – ‘Baby answer’ – one of Runtown’s lesser-known singles released in 2014.
Another point of contention was the creative process. Eric Many wanted to have a hand in the creation process, which Runtown didn’t agree to. Over arguments and mini-fights, they finally ceded and allowed him to control the process. ‘The latest’ was one of such records.
Life at Eric Many was very unprofessional. There were no defined structures or rules, everything was done at the spur of the moment, and best practices were not adhered to.
Two people who worked with the Eric Many on booking Runtown says Dilly once showed promoters his house and cars, derisorily telling them to cough more money because he is a billionaire. This created tensions and burnt numerous bridges, which Runtown had to work hard to mend and maintain.
“Dilly made Runtown unable to form for promoters as an artist. He was always apologizing and trying to build relationships,” one said.
After recording his debut album – Ghetto University –, Runtown was pressured to sign a new extension of the deal. Dilly hatched a fraudulent plan to tease Runtown with a Nicki Minaj collaboration opportunity and force his hand to sign an extension.
“When I was about to drop the video, he called me out of the blues, that he was going to get Nicki Minaj on the album. I accepted, being that a Nicki Minaj will be good on the album. When we were in the US, he kept on calling and asking if we can get across to Minaj. He couldn’t come to the US himself because he is banned by the US Government to return to the country. He has fraud issues,” Runtown said.
“He kept on calling about the Nicki Minaj people that he is ready to play. Then he brought a contract extension for another two years stating that if he pays for the Nicki Minaj deal, then he will need a 2-year extension to recoup his investment. I wasn’t around then, so the management handed the contract to a guy we worked with and dropped it there. Neither I nor my manager, Bugo, were around. He called me on the phone threatening me that if I don’t extend the contract, he will kill me, and bury my career and that he isn’t going to release my album,” he continued.
Up until 2016, Runtown had not been paid his royalties from record sales and distribution. The label signed up to pay Runtown 35% of his gross income. This was without subtracting logistical costs. But this never happened.
“We started running, we went for shows and everything, and when I requested for my 35%, problem. I never got any 35% on it. They would always say, ‘We are pushing, we need to put more stuff (money) to push. The thing went on until 2015 when I was working on my album,” Runtown told me in 2016.
Trouble first reared its head in 2015. Runtown had travelled to Vegas for the famous Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight, which held on May 2, 2015, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Runtown had received a tip that DJ Khaled will be present at one of the pre-event parties, and a mutual friend was ready to make the introductions. Runtown flew to the US to explore the opportunity.
The meeting happened, and a song titled ‘Money Bag’ was recorded with Khaled sending in his vocals.
“I was in the states and out of my money, I spent between $40,000 and $50,000, and that’s just the ones I can account for. I spent more than that on the collabo,” Runtown said in 2016.
“I was meant to do the video the next day in New York, I was waiting for Khaled. When they got to New York, I got a call from the label saying that I need to leave New York immediately. I couldn’t even understand what was wrong with what I did. I expected them to tell me “Well done, I saw what you did with DJ Khaled. It turned a problem, and they said I need to fly to South Africa for a video shoot.”
But this was not the first time such an absurd controlling move was pulled on Runtown. In 2014, the same year he signed the deal, he had a vacation in London. Dilly called him repeatedly, asking who authorised him to travel to London. He responded that he was on vacation, and none of it was the company’s business. But something sinister was waiting for him when he touched Lagos.
“When I got back, I went to Mr Dilly’s house, and he started ranting, and asking ‘Why did I travel?’ I told him that it’s just like travelling to Enugu to see my mum, that it’s just London, just like anywhere, that the contract does not state that I cannot have personal travels,” Runtown said.
“The next thing, He (Dilly) pulled out a gun, and threatened me, and said he was going to f***k me up. I felt scared and confused. I didn’t go to London to do a show and they found out. I went there for my vacation. So the threats kept going on.”
Pulling a gun was just the physical manifestation of Dilly’s campaign of threats towards Runtown. Messages obtained by Pulse, with no permission to publish, shows a history of threats to life and more on Runtown. Voice recordings also received by Pulse, contain death-threats to Runtown. There’s also a proposed plan by Dilly to blackmail him with a fictitious sex tape.
The video shoot with DJ Khaled did not hold. Runtown who had exhausted his personal cash with paying for the audio, spending on logistics, and sorting out middlemen, was out of money. In February 2016, Runtown had a deal with a brewery company, had shows in Trinidad and Tobago, and other engagements which brought in money. He agreed with Dilly that after these shows, they would have generated enough to fund a video shoot with DJ Khaled.
Due to Khaled’s pop explosion via Snapchat and his deal with Roc Nation, his price had gone up, and they were requesting for more money. Dilly agreed that they would go ahead with the shoot. After the shows in Trinidad, Dilly didn’t pay Runtown his percentages.
The team flew to Miami to meet DJ Khaled. While in Miami, they couldn’t get through, until Runtown reached out to someone that works with Rick Ross, and they called Khaled who on loudspeaker confirmed that he was ready for the shoot, the next Tuesday. Runtown called the label informing them of the good news, but Dilly pulled the plug on the shoot with the now familiar phrase, “There is no money.”
Runtown was broken. He had pursued the deal for a while, spent money in recording the audio from his pocket, didn’t get label backup in securing the deal, and racked up logistics cost which he also settled from his pockets. Add that to his lack of royalties payments, and the threats. He had had enough of everything.
“If he had been giving me my 35%, things like the Khaled video, I wouldn’t have bothered him. I would have funded it myself. I told him “you won’t do what the label is meant to do, and you won’t give me my percentage, what do you want me to do?” Runtown asked.
The crew left Miami, returned to Lagos, and through his lawyers, Runtown sent him a contract termination letter. He also informed him via telephone and requested for all his percentage payments from royalties, and performance fees.
First Court Date, First Injunction
From there, the campaign of threats began. According to phone recordings and text messages obtained by Pulse, Dilly serially threatened Runtown. On one of such events, he made the claim that two of his wristwatches are worth more than the contract, and how he didn’t need the money. He threatened to bury Runtown’s career and likened his case to that of Dagrin, the late rapper. He warned Runtown not to allow his ‘counterparts’ take over the issue, and ‘deal’ with Runtown.
After the threats failed to keep Runtown in line, Dilly tried to remedy things by making payments. He agreed to hand over some of the payments, which he did.
“We were going to do the ‘Lagos to Kampala’ video, I heard that there were two payments made for a show at N3.5 million, and another from digital sales for 2.7 million. I asked him for my percentage, and story entered again. That was when I got fed up with everything. I got back after the video shoot,” Runtown said.
“When I got back to Nigeria, he was trying to get everything, so a prom event paid in Port Harcourt and he gave me my percentage. There was also another show in London where he paid, and another show with a beverage brand. I only got my percentage thrice in the past two years, and that was because I used a third party to book the show and received payment. I used my manager to receive the money and split it based on the agreement. He began to make claims that my manager stole his money. If they had paid him directly, I wouldn’t have gotten my cut,” he said.
On May 20, 2016, a Federal High Court in Lagos, granted an injunction against Runtown. It was sought by Eric Many.
On Friday, June 3, 2016, Lydia Obasi Hills, Esq., a New York litigator and entertainment lawyer, secured a temporary injunction, on behalf of Eric Many, Ltd., against Runtown and his manager barring all U.S performances and appearances by the Nigerian pop star.
Runtown had been booked for a series of shows in the US and Eric Many wanted in on the payment. They had received a termination letter but didn’t want Runtown to honour the US concerts.
Ms. Obasi Hills argued before United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto, who found that "Nigerian music is on the verge of crossing over into North American popular music as demonstrated by Nigerian musical artist Wizkid's performance on the number one single 'One dance' by Drake," and that the "totality of potential losses that Eric Many will likely face from Runtown's actions are incalculable." Judge Matsumoto found that a "Nigerian court issued an interim injunction dated May 20, 2016, that enjoins Runtown" and that it "will be virtually impossible to quantify the losses that Eric Many will suffer if it is not affiliated with Runtown during this critical time for Nigerian music.
Ms. Obasi Hills presented evidence to the Court that Runtown was not only in breach of his record contract but was also planning a U.S. tour, titled "Ghetto University USA Tour," without the consent of his label, which would have been in violation of the May 20, 2016, Lagos Federal High Court injunction. Ms Obasi Hills also presented evidence that Runtown was making false and malicious defamatory statements against Eric Many and its CEO, Prince Okwudili Umenyiora. Judge Matsumoto ultimately entered an order restraining and enjoining Douglas Jack Agu (“Runtown”), Bugu Aneto Okeke, Bug Media Limited, and Bug Entertainment and Media Limited, from "singing, appearing, hosting, performing, promoting, arranging, facilitating, scheduling, advertising or permitting the performance of Douglas Jack Agu "Runtown" at any venue on or after June 3, 2016."
After the injunctions, all parties came together for a settlement out of court. All the cases were struck out, and Eric Many paid the pending royalties for that period, while they arranged a new set of rules of engagement. There was also an agreement for extension in the contract for Runtown.
As conditions for the settlement, Eric Many had to have the company books edited. A source who received a copy of the books told Pulse that Eric Many had cooked the books to justify his non-payment of fees. One source specifically told Pulse that he had added Runtown’s Mother’s Burial to the expenses of the record label. This was incorrect.
This was where Runtown’s personality was tested. According to friends close to the singer, Runtown’s personal disposition was to avoid trouble. He is a private person, who simply wants to create records, and so tries to avoid confrontation.
“I tell him all the time to speak out for himself, instead of letting things go. If he had done that more, Okwudili would never have gotten away with so much,” said a former employee of Eric Many.
By November 2016, Runtown had released a new record titled ‘Mad over you’. By December 2016, it was the hottest song on the continent, leading into 2017 with covers from around the globe.
Runtown toured with the single, performing sold-out tours at concerts at major venues like Indigo 02 Arena in London, Howard Event Center in Washington, Amazura concert hall in New York City and more.
In March, Runtown acquired a brand new 2017 Lamborghini Gallardo from Dilly. The new whip valued at N150 million Naira is a unique and extravagant super-car that goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 3 seconds with a V10 engine, ceramic brakes, adaptive damping system and excellent transmission system.
This happened during a renegotiation with Eric Many, for the final lap of the contract. Much of the money for the Lambo, was entered into the contract, with clear payment terms from performance fees, and touring.
Runtown was part of the headlining acts for the 2017 GLO Mega Music Nationwide Tour. The tour saw Runtown perform in 27 Cities across Nigeria starting from April 7, 2017. He was joined by other superstars including Olamide, Psquare, Flavour and more. Accounts show that much of the money for the car was recouped for that tour.
Touring with GLO was hard for Runtown due to new developments in his personal life. He welcomed his first child, a baby boy named Zamar, with his girlfriend, Selena Leath. Sources close to the singer said during the tour, Runtown flew between Nigeria and the US to spend time with his new family. In December 2017, Runtown was one of the most-booked artists for the holiday season.
“During the ‘Mad over you’ run, Dilly made a lot of money,” said a former insider in the Eric Many. “He made so much money that he got hooked on to the cash. Nobody wants to let go of a cash cow.”
To further throw Runtown into debt, Dilly began to cook up new schemes. In January, he called Runtown, out of the blues to offer him a new ‘gift’. The gift was a new Rolex watch, reportedly valued at N16 million. Runtown accepted.
But things took a weird turn, during the audit and accounting of the label books. Runtown, nearing the end of his contract moved to the US to set up his personal recording imprint, and build a team. The singer is also due for a sophomore album, and recording for it has begun.
To wrap up his contract, which is ending on June 22,2018, Runtown demanded a breakdown of every revenue generated since the release of ‘Mad over you’. Dilly sent a financial report that was inaccurate. Expenses and running costs of the label was placed on the shoulders of the artist, an uncommon practice that isn’t a part of the contract.
“The books were cooked,” says one of its handlers, who pled not to be named in this story. “Everything there was pure fiction, with expenses invented for the purpose of justifying fraud.”
One thing stood out in the books as part of the label expenditure – The Rolex Wristwatch. Runtown was shocked. He simply struck it off and returned the gift back to Dilly.
Other discrepancies include logistical costs for the label during the tours. Also included was ‘cost of production’. According to three producers who have worked with Runtown, Eric Many has carried no responsibility for production.
Runtown responded that he would independently audit the books, with his accountants and lawyers.
They cut off communication until the day Runtown was spotted with Drake in the US. He received messages from Dilly, asking him to return. Runtown rejected the invite, and although Dilly offered him the promise of extracting money from a Governor in Nigeria, he stood firm.
According to insiders close to Runtown’s camp, Dilly has been trying to set up a final tour in the US and Europe to make one last stash of cash with him. He had turned it down because he plans to tour after releasing his next album.
Seeing Runtown’s refusal to come back to Lagos, he went to court again. Before that, he had sent a letter of termination to Runtown’s personal manager and friend, Ifeanyi Nwunne, stating that he had been fired for ‘abuse of marijuana’.
For the second time in 2-years, Eric Many filed an injunction at a Federal High court against the singer for breach of contract.
The entertainment company served Runtown the court papers with Suit No: FHC/L/CS/267/2018 with a statement that partly reads, 'Runtown has been deliberately breaching his contract with us (Eric Many) for a while and despite our many appeals to him, he has refused to bulge. He went for a show in Las Vegas since January 13th, 2018 and has since decided to withdraw all obligations of his contract. He has steadily been recording an album without the consent and approval of his record label'.
In a press statement issued, the label also states that "he's recording with artists like Del B without the written approval of the label and without an Eric Many appointees at the point of recording as agreed in our contract. Runtown has also been appearing in venues and collecting appearance fees without the approval of the label and also performing in private shows without the label's consent which contravenes clause 4.4.1 of his record deal which states that 'the Defendant (Runtown) can only engage in recording, collaborating or performing with other artists for third parties or other record companies upon proper notification in advance to the Plaintiff. Upon this notification, the Plaintiff would then enter into an agreement with the collaborating artiste or his record company to ensure that the Plaintiff and the Defendant receive proper credit, legal/copyright protection and compensation for the collaborative work".
Though Runtown's record deal with Eric Many is due to expire at some point this year, the label says he still owes the company a lot of money including, “Hundreds of millions in Naira from the Lamborghini Gallardo super-fast car which he still has to pay back to the label and also an album that must be released through the right channels”. They also claim that he has been “doing numerous collaborations with several artists without getting the written approval of the label and as a result, no royalties have come back to the label from any of these collaborations. He has been warned severally about this on numerous occasions but he refused to listen, so we as the label had to go to court to stop him from these dubious actions'.”
The label also confirmed the sacking his current manager, Ifeanyi Nwunne saying, “Eric Many has also fired Ifeanyi Nwunne as Runtown's manager. He is more of a drug addict that smokes marijuana round the clock. A new manager will be appointed soonest.”
Eric Many in its statement of claim is seeking the sum of "N65 MILLION being General Damages against the Defendant (Runtown) in favour of the Plaintiff for infringement of the Plaintiff's copyright to the collaborative musical works "Call Me" and "Weekend" both of which featured the Defendant as well as N5 MILLION as costs of this action".
Runtown appeared on a collaboration with Sheebah, a Ugandan star, who had the arrangement to perform in Rwanda for free during a Runtown’s tour stop, put together by Eric Many. The duo recorded a song titled ‘Weekend’ and shot a video which was released in December 2017. Sheebah performed at the concert in Rwanda, on September 23, 2017, with Dilly in attendance.
The other record mentioned in the suit is titled ‘Call me’, a collaboration with South African rapper, K.O. Eric Many claims to have no knowledge of it. But messages obtained by Pulse, show Dilly consenting to it, alongside, ‘Said’, a Coke Studio hit collaboration with Nasty C.
The record label denies this. In an email response to my inquiry via email, a representative of the label said: “Yes, Eric Many paid production costs for the DJ Khaled production, and Eric Many pays for all running costs.”
The label also denies that Dilly pulled a gun at Runtown, "NO, Dilly never threatened him with a gun."
They also deny attempts to blackmail him with a sex tape. “What reason do we need to have a sex tape to black mail Runtown? This is a huge lie!” they said.
On Thursday, March 29, 2018, when an alleged Runtown sex tape leaked on social media, Okwudili Umenyiora released a statement denying he was involved in it.
Many of the people we spoke to for this story declined to openly provide comments. Pulse reached out to Runtown for comments. The singer declined to comment, saying “everything is in court now. My legal team is in charge.”
Pulse also reached out to Runtown’s ex-manager, Bugo Aneto Okeke, who says he doesn’t want to be dragged into the issue. “I left them long ago, it’s a chapter of my life I don’t want to revisit,” he said.
But an ex-employee of Eric Many, who asked to be kept anonymous said, “Runtown has not breached his contract in any way. If he is smart, let him countersue Eric Many, and they will discover that they owe him millions of naira. They have been very unfair to him, with Dilly’s schemes and shady tactics.”
*After this article was published, Okwudili Umenyiora reached out to Pulse to air his full side of the story which will be published soon.