MANATEE -- Gangsta rapper 50 Cent has a beef with a Bradenton company.
The hip-hop heavyweight has sued Sleek Audio LLC for a $285,000 promissory note he loaned the company in April 2010, which remains unpaid, court records show.
The partnership originally resulted in the "Sleek by 50" wireless headphones that were announced at the 2011 CES convention in Las Vegas and written about in Rolling Stone Magazine and other national publications.
Sleek Audio issued a press release last May terminating its licensing agreement with the 37-year-old rapper, whose real name is Curtis Jackson.
Legal representatives from Jackson and Sleek Audio both declined comment on Thursday due to confidentiality obligations.
In addition to having his advance money returned, Jackson requested $61,429 in back interest, another 15 percent for any debt that remains unpaid going forward, and for Sleek Audio to pay legal fees tied to the issue.
In a suit filed with the Manatee Clerk of Court in April, Jackson claims Sleek Audio agreed to begin payments on the loan once the company notched $750,000 in sales revenue, a mark allegedly eclipsed in February 2011.
Jackson, who is still listed as a managing partner with Sleek Audio, has since teamed with SMS Audio LLC of Delray Beach on his headphone venture. SMS Audio could
not be reached Thursday. Litigation surrounding the technology also is pending in West Palm Beach County and New York.
Sleek Audio argues the loan became void when Jackson took their idea to a competitor. The company also claims Jackson purposely omitted and misstated information during their negotiations with the intent of fraud, according to the lawsuit.
"Sleek would have NEVER borrowed money from Jackson or allowed him to invest in its company had it known that Jackson would ultimately use this tactic (of misusing the money) to steal its design, technology and headphones," the company said in an un-sworn court statement.
Correspondence from Jackson in March 2011 demanded the company mediate the issue. The latest court documents filed by Jackson's attorneys indicate Sleek Audio essentially refused by not setting up a time to meet.
Because the arbitration was binding, the $285,000 will most likely be awarded pending court confirmation, said Joseph Lehn, a Sarasota foreclosure attorney who reviewed the documents at the request of the Herald.
Sleek Audio can still appeal or discharge the debt through bankruptcy.
"Celebrities get involved in these all of the time, and they have been known to make bad investments," Lehn said. "Anybody who makes an investment takes a risk. In this case, it was smart by 50 Cent to make some of the clauses written in."
Founded in 2006, Sleek Audio specializes in "wireless hybrid earphones" that "offer unparalleled sound quality, comfort, and flexibility," according to the company's website.
Sleek Audio's products have been featured in publications such as WIRED magazine and Popular Science. It received the 2009 Innovation Award from the Manatee County Economic Development Corp.
Sleek Audio is registered to Mark Krywko. The company employs four at its 3904 Ninth Ave. W. Bradenton location. It has introduced more than 20 patented products to the world marketplace, according to Herald records. Sleek Audio's noise reduction headphones have been used by more than 300 professional athletes, including members of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The career of 50 Cent skyrocketed with the release of his super-hyped 2003 debut album "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'," which has sold 8 million copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
He also starred in the semi-autobiographical film of the same name in 2005 and recently coauthored the "The 50th Law Comic" book.
In 2008, Jackson sued Taco Bell, claiming the fast-food restaurant chain used his name without permission, according to Herald archives, and was seeking $4 million in damages.
He won the lawsuit in 2009. The terms were confidential.