UNIVERSAL CITY (CBSLA) – Musicians could be preparing to sue Universal Studios over allegations that the company may have tried to cover up the loss of half-a-million original music master recordings in a massive blaze more than a decade ago.
On June 1, 2008, a massive fire swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood, torching a number of famous attractions.
The most costly destruction, however, was that of a video vault containing the master recordings for hundreds of artists including the likes of Elton John, the Eagles and Bill Haley & the Comets.
At the time, Universal claimed nothing irreplaceable was lost.
“Fortunately nothing irreplaceable was lost, we have duplicates,” Ron Meyer — the former president of Universal Studios and current vice chairman of NBC Universal — said at the time. “Obviously there’s a lot of work to replicate what’s been lost, but it can be done.”
However, a New York Times investigative report earlier this month alleges the company tried to cover up the destruction of 500,000 priceless recordings.
Randy Aronson, who was the senior director for vault operations for Universal Music Group when the fire occurred, was interviewed in the NYT piece and Monday spoke out for the first time since the piece was published.
“It’s a hell of a loss, it’s a hell of a way to find out about it, and I’m sorry for that part that I played in that,” Aronson said Monday.
Aronson, who ran vault operations through 2016 for UMG, claims Universal forced him to stick to a script from day one.
“I just kind of thought it was something that you say when there’s a disaster, and you kind of want to get your hands around the total loss before you come out with anything, and the next thing I know, it’s 11 years later,” Aronson said.
“It’s kind like re-living the fire all over again,” Aronson added.
However, from the start, Aronson said he knew the real losses.
“The losses of the fire haven’t changed since the day the fire happened,” Aronson said.
Universal has pushed back hard against the NYT story, writing in a statement: “The story contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”
There are reports some artists could sue Universal over the alleged cover-up. CBS2 reached out to an attorney representing those recording artists, but did not immediately hear back.