Former Hong Kong actress/ singer Elanne Kong’s (江若琳) contract dispute with her previous management company, Universe Entertainment, has dragged on for more than seven years. In recent hearings at the High Court, Elanne broke down multiple times over allegations that she had an affair with her former boss, and revealed that she had considered suicide because of the mental torment her previous employer put her through.
Universe Entertainment Sues Elanne
From 2004 to 2014, Elanne was managed by Universe Entertainment. Since she was still a minor at the time of signing of her 10-year contract, her mother had signed on her behalf. The contract terms stated that Universe Entertainment had the priority to renew Elanne’s contract for another five years in 2014. When the singer refused, the company sued her for breach of contract.
Elaine claimed that she did not receive proper dues for her work. Because of questionable billing practices, the 34-year-old was always in debt with the company and owed them $1 million Hong Kong dollars after working with them for 10 years.
The company’s chairman, Daneil Lam (林小明), denied these allegations and proclaimed that the company had lent her money through the years when she did not have any income.
Staff Suggested Elanne Pull Out All of Her Teeth
In the first year and half when Elanne became a managed artiste, Daniel admitted that she did not have any jobs. Elanne just received orthodontic treatment and continued to go to school.
According to Elanne, company staff had initially suggested that she pull out all of her teeth and get implants for a straighter smile. Since Elanne was only 16 at the time, her mother took her to a doctor, who objected this should not be done because of her young age.
Company’s Machinations Always Put Her in Debt
Elanne claimed that Universe Entertainment’s machinations always put her in debt with the company, even as her income grew. The company would deduct promotional expenses such as wardrobe, catering, and dining out fees from her income.
In 2012, Elanne owed her company HK$2 million, which she was able to lower to HK$1 million by 2014. However, this was “meaningless” to her because “No matter what I did, the company always managed to put me in debt with them.” Most of the expenses charged to Elanne’s account were allegedly music-production related.
As Elanne’s parents became increasingly worried over her income and asked a lot of questions, Daniel offered to give them HK$500,000 to pacify their concerns. He urged Elanne, “After you film two dramas, you won’t be in the [negative] anymore.” However, Elanne realized later that the HK$500,000 was also charged on her behalf, which was part of the HK$1 million she owed Universe Entertainment.
Questionable Billing Practices
In 2006, the first time Elanne looked at the company’s monthly record, it was indicated she owned them HK$17,000 after deducting the various expenses they spent on her.
Elanne claimed she continued to notice unreasonable fees, such as the laundering fees of dancers’ costumes, staff’s pain reliever pills, toothpicks, and stationery were charged to her account. Although she challenged the company each time, Daniel replied that this was the standard protocol in the industry to deduct all expenses related to artiste management.
The company would only provide one expense statement every six months. At first, Elanne was able to see the statements, but later on, her manager would sign the statements while she was working. Elanne was unable to carefully review the itemized expenses, and was unclear what was actually being billed under her name.
During her employment, the company would allocate an amount of HK$5,000 to HK$33,000 for Elanne’s monthly living expenses which she found to be inadequate. To preserve her celebrity image, the company forbade her to eat street foods, take public transportation, and also ordered Elanne to move out of her parents’ modest home and rent an apartment by herself.
Daniel Calls Elanne a Traitor
Based on his experience, Daniel claimed that it normally takes 10 years for an artiste to establish fame. During the 10 years, the company needs to spend a lot of time and resources to manage the artiste and would only earn profits in the last five years of her career.
Daniel stated that Elanne knew the company intended to manage her for a total of 15 years from the outset, otherwise they would not have invested HK$50 million in her television drama to promote her. Calling her a “traitor,” Daniel claimed that Elanne would have qualified to earn HK$7 million in her 10 years of employment if she were not such a “big spender.”
He cited that in 2010, while preparing for Elanne’s concert, Daniel could not find enough endorsers and Universe Entertainment had to fund HK$400,000 for the event. When the concert was unable to sell enough tickets, the company ended up losing money.
Elanne’s Mental Suffering and Suicide Attempt
At the court hearings, the defense counsel pointed to Elanne’s mental suffering as a result of the company’s treatment through the years. When a tabloid took upskirt photos of her, Universe Entertainment did not try to stop the circulation of the photos nor protect her privacy. She also claimed she was ordered to film bust enhancement ads which she did not want to do.
In 2011, Elanne had intended to commit suicide in Shek O, and called Daniel to complain of her unfair treatment. Although Elanne suffered immense pressure and stress when she was perceived as being Daniel’s lover by the public, the company forbade her from making a detailed response and did not arrange a press conference to clarify the rumors.
Cursed by the public as a third party, Elanne’s image plummeted and she received no endorsements and jobs. She described herself as a “slave in the entertainment industry,” and wondered why she had no income although she had been an artiste for nearly a decade.
In his testimony, Daneil proclaimed that if he did not give money to Elanne through the years, she would not be able to survive or have the means for basic living. He further added that he also suffered mentally during that time.
However, when the defense counsel pointed out that despite Elanne’s inability to make sales, the company insisted on pushing out a new record. “During such circumstances, the company still persisted in pushing out her album, Shining. Isn’t that odd? Wasn’t she suffering enough already? Why insist on spending so much money on this project?” Daneil simply replied that the album was recorded previously.
After Elanne’s contract with Universe Entertainment ended in 2014, she claimed the company discouraged directors in casting her and told others she was difficult to work with.
Throughout the court hearings, Elanne broke into tears multiple times. Her husband, entrepreneur Oscar Siu (蕭潤邦), was in attendance to support her.
This article is written by Huynh and Jayne for JayneStars.com.