Ryan Leslie is a lot of things. He’s a Harvard University alum who completed his schooling at age 19. He’s a record producer, an R&B singer, and a rapper with a large and loyal fan base. He’s even the founder of a successful media company. One thing he is not, however, is an attorney.
So when his backpack was stolen during a tour in Cologne, Germany, in 2010, he probably should have consulted a lawyer before uploading not one, but two YouTube videos offering rewards for his lost property. First, Mr. Leslie offered a $20,000 reward for the return of his bag containing a hard drive and laptop with beats and recordings invaluable to the musician. With no results, he upped the reward to $1,000,000.
When a German auto shop owner out on a dog walk found the bag containing the computer and the hard drive and demanded his million dollar reward, Mr. Leslie refused to pay because, he said, none of the information on the hard drive was retrievable. This started an offer/acceptance problem that would make a law student scream his mother’s name and pass out during a contracts exam.
Our legal system, in its infinite wisdom, takes a problem too complex for most lawyers and asks twelve individuals with no legal training to figure it out. And in a Manhattan federal court last November, a jury ordered Mr. Leslie to pay Armin Augstein, the man who found the hard drive, the full $1 million. Later, the court ordered Mr. Leslie to an additional $180,000 for interest that accrued between the finding of the laptop and the court’s decision. Various newspapers, most notably the New York Post, have ruthlessly mocked Mr. Leslie for trying to get out of paying what he promised.
We wrote about the case in November of 2011 and came to the conclusion, after reading the media headlines, that Mr. Leslie had to pay up. But we’ve since had the opportunity to learn more about the case.
We talked to David DeStefano, the attorney for Mr. Leslie, and we’re not certain the correct decision was reached.
…But let’s take a look together, shall we?