LOS ANGELES (AP) – Madonna’s Maverick Records label sued Warner Music Group and Time Warner Inc. for breach of contract on Thursday, accusing the record company and its former parent of mismanagement and improper accounting that cost the singer and her partners millions of dollars.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between Madonna and Warner over Maverick, a joint venture the singer and record company launched in 1992.

In the suit, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Maverick accuses Warner Music and the other defendants of “engaging in acts of self-dealing and profit-taking, falsely accounting for receipts and expenses of the partnership … and secretly attempting to seize partnership opportunities for their own benefit.”

Maverick claims Warner violated the venture agreement by failing to pay for “guaranteed” services like radio promotion, marketing and sales meant to support Maverick artists.

The suit also contends Warner obscured label profits by using “artificial and improper accounting methodology to create the false impression of losses.”

In a statement, Warner Music Group called Maverick’s claims “baseless, unsubstantiated and without merit.”

Madonna’s Tadpole Records Inc. and companies owned by her label partners, Guy Oseary and Ronnie Dashev, are also named as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the three partners have the right to end the joint partnership agreement and do business with other companies. Madonna and her partners also seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, which attorney Bert Fields estimated total more than $200 million.

The suit came a day after Warner filed a sealed lawsuit in Delaware, asking the court to affirm that Maverick’s claims are baseless, according to the court documents filed Thursday in Los Angeles.

Warner also took effort to separate the dispute over Maverick from its business relationship with the singer, which dates to 1984.

“This effort to resolve ongoing contractual issues surrounding the Maverick Records joint venture agreement in no way impacts the company’s deep respect for Madonna,” the statement said.

A Madonna spokeswoman said the singer had no comment. A Time Warner spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Time Warner sold Warner Music Group in November to an investor group including Edgar Bronfman Jr., Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners.

Madonna and her partners own a combined 60 percent stake in Maverick, whose artist roster includes Alanis Morissette and Michelle Branch. Warner owns the remaining 40 percent.

The current contract between Maverick and Warner is set to expire at the end of this year, and both sides have been trying to negotiate a settlement to the dispute for months.

Maverick asserts in the lawsuit that the label has generated more than $900 million in sales and profits of more than $100 million for Warner Music Group since Maverick was formed.

AP-ES-03-25-04 1956EST

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