The Birmingham News reports that American Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard and 205 Flava, Inc., the makers of the '205' jerseys that Ruben wore during most of his journey to ultimate victory, settled their lawsuits against each other on Friday, December 19. As part of the settlement, 19 Entertainment, the firm owned by Idol creator Simon Fuller that co-produces Idol, will have exclusive marketing rights to 205 Flava products, in particular the '205' jerseys.
Prior to the deal, 205 Flava's Web site, which was central to the litigation, was taken down, its retail store on the south side of Birmingham had closed, and the corporation's owners, brothers Frederick and Willie Jenkins, had returned to their "core" businesses: a barber shop and a chain of tax-preparation centers. Thus, the only remaining issue in the lawsuit was the damages claimed by Ruben from the brothers' unauthorized use of his image -- which Ruben's lawyers had estimated at up to $2 million.
Frederick Jenkins refused to discuss the financial settlement, saying only, "All of us can live." He said that the settlement negotiations began in November and that the tentative agreement, which calls for 205 Flava to license all rights to the jerseys to 19 Entertainment in return for royalties, was reached three or four weeks ago. "I think it will be OK in the future," he said. "I think some great things will come out of it."
In particular, great things will come out of it for the Jenkins brothers if Ruben resumes wearing the jerseys while touring behind his album Soulful, which debuted at #1 last week. But will he?
Part of the compelling nature of this story came from the charges by the Jenkins brothers that they had given Ruben weekly payoffs so that he would continue to wear the shirts on Idol -- a blatant violation of Idol rules if true. As a result, it's possible that the emotional scars from the lawsuits will outlast the economic settlement, and the '205' jerseys will remain a thing of the past in Ruben's wardrobe.
Frederick Jenkins, for one, was trying to prevent that outcome by praising Ruben during his interview. Said Frederick, "I never had anything against Ruben. I can say that ... it's a blessing he's doing well. And he continues to do well. I think he's a great guy ... I'm glad this matter is settled and we can get along as Birminghamians."
First evidence of whether there are lingering hard feelings on Ruben's part will come tomorrow night, when Ruben and his band, Just a Few Cats, play two sold-out concerts in Birmingham. Will money and Birmingham pride conquer all? Time will tell.