George Harrison spoke about the importance of love and tolerance, but he reportedly could not conjure up those emotions for a longtime business associate. After he learned about his manager Denis O’Brien’s mishandling of money, Harrison cut ties with him. According to those who knew Harrison, he hated O’Brien with an intensity they rarely saw in him.
George Harrison fired his business manager in the early 1970s
Harrison began working with O’Brien in the early 1970s after he fired his previous manager, Allen Klein. He had served as The Beatles’ manager at the tail end of their time together. After the band broke up, he still assisted them in their solo ventures.
In 1973, Harrison decided not to renew his contract with Klein. When Klein heard this, he sued Harrison for the approximately $270,000 he said that Harrison had borrowed from his company. They settled the suit in 1975.
Harrison hired O’Brien after Klein because of how efficient he was. “In 20 minutes he gets more from a budget sheet than most people do in 20 hours,” Harrison said, per the book George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson.
On top of their business relationship, Harrison and O’Brien became good friends.
George Harrison reportedly hated one of his business managers
Harrison and O’Brien worked together on HandMade Films, a production and distribution company. While the company had some successes, they hit financial trouble. After hiring an accountant, John Reiss, Harrison learned that he and O’Brien were not equal partners in backing films. Instead, Harrison reportedly took on full financial responsibility while O’Brien profited off the company.
Per The New York Times, Harrison accused O’Brien of mishandling his money in a 1995 lawsuit. The court awarded Harrison $11 million, and when O’Brien filed for bankruptcy, Harrison moved to block the declaration.
According to Harrison’s friend Eric Idle, the musician felt “bitter, betrayed, angry and let down” by his former business partner and friend.
“He hated [O’Brien] with an intensity that was quite rare for George,” Idle said. “It took him a long time to get over all that.”
He wrote an unreleased song called “Lyin’ O’Brien” about his former manager.
He once told Tom Petty that there was nothing to be gained from hatred
Though Harrison disliked O’Brien, he once told his friend Tom Petty that there was nothing to be gained from hatred. Even toward the end of his life, when he was dealing with overwhelming media attention, Petty said he maintained a sense of optimism.
“He’d be the first to say there’s nothing to be gained by bitterness or anger, hatred,” Petty told Rolling Stone in 2002, per The Petty Archives. “I don’t know how many times he would remind me that bitterness or pessimism is only going to slow you down finding the solution. And he lived that way. George was the kind of guy who wasn’t going to leave until he hugged you for five minutes and told you how much he loved you. We knew where we stood with each other.”