TO the world outside, David Furnish is the rock Sir Elton John depends on.
He is the superstar’s lover, partner and co-father to their two young sons Zachary and Elijah and seen as the one constant in a notorious rock and roll lifestyle of wild excess.
But sources inside Sir Elton’s inner circle now say Furnish, 53, is behaving like a control-freak, exercising an increasing influence over the music legend.
The past 18 months have been a turbulent time for Elton, 68, who has parted company with a host of loyal employees including managers, publicist, lawyer and domestic staff.
Record deals have been bungled as US music company executives despair of negotiations.
In the past year the singer has also been publicly humiliated by a series of PR gaffes.
And friends and music insiders are now firmly pointing the finger at Furnish, who they blame for the disasters.
A source close to the couple said: “Elton is looking for a quiet life and has handed control of his life to David.
“But David is behaving like a control freak with little idea how to run Elton’s financial or domestic affairs.
“He has fallen out with and fired some very experienced and loyal people and other domestic staff are suddenly being slapped with gagging orders so they can’t talk about Elton or David.
“They have six houses all round the world. All those gardeners, chauffeurs, maids, cleaners. They are all gagged.
“Whenever you visit one of the houses you now have to put your phone in a basket when you go through the front door.”
Friends say they fear Elton is becoming increasingly detached as Furnish takes ever greater control.
One old friend, who has not seen him for months, said: “Furnish is in danger of turning Elton into some sort of eccentric Howard Hughes character. You just can’t get near him.
“But Elton buys it all. He’s 69 in March. He feels anything for the quiet life. He’s got his kids and tours and just does it.
“But not everybody can be wrong. If David doesn’t like friends or staff he severs them.
“Elton lives in a bubble so he’s touring and he has all his backstage things. His staff know what to tell and not tell him but Furnish is his lifeline. Elton only ever hears Furnish’s point of view.”
In the past two years the pair have axed a string of key staff, some of whom have served them for decades.
The source added: “Elton’s had in the region of probably seven or eight managers since he and Furnish got together. Rod Stewart has had the same manager since the Seventies. David Bowie, the same.”
The latest associate rumoured to be forced out is fiercely loyal and deeply private PR man Gary Farrow, who has resigned after 35 years service.
In a statement, he simply cited “directional differences between Elton’s new management and myself”. Last night he refused to comment further.
Elton has suffered a string of public disasters, with insiders blaming Furnish for the damage to his image.
When a Russian phone hoaxer pretending to be Vladimir Putin conned Elton into appearing on radio, Furnish compounded the disaster by immediately putting details of the “talks” on Instagram.
A US source said: “With radio hoaxes so common, a smart move would have been to check that the phone call really was from Putin. Elton was humiliated.”
Elton was also mocked earlier this year for being pictured with a Dolce & Gabbana bag hours after calling for a boycott of the brand.
He was furious at the designers after they said kids born from IVF treatment, like his sons, were “synthetic”.
But a US music source said: “When the pictures broke on The Sun’s website of Elton carrying a D&G bag there was pandemonium in the camp.
“At the time, PR Farrow suggested the photo was doctored but later confirmed it wasn’t.”
Elton also refused to attend his mother’s 90th birthday, prolonging a rift which has lasted seven years.
It is a family tragedy that devastated Sheila firmly blames firmly on Furnish, who has been in a relationship with her son since 1993.
Speaking in March, she said her son had told her he “hated her” after she called Furnish “that f***ing thing you married”.
At her 90th birthday celebrations, Sheila even ended up befriending an Elton John lookalike. A family source said: “This was the woman that bought him up and gave him private piano lessons. She ended up with a lookalike. It’s very sad and all totally avoidable.”
The influence of Canadian Furnish, a filmmaker, is also being felt in Elton’s financial affairs.
The Sun can reveal that in the past 12 months Sir Elton has quietly handed control of large chunks of his multi-million pound music and film businesses to Furnish.
He was appointed a director of Rocket Stage Ltd, worth £1.3million, in January 2014 and he is already a director of Rocket Pictures Ltd, which is worth £4.7million
A business source said: “Effectively David Furnish has become CEO of Elton John Ltd.
“He is taking control of his companies, his tours, his whole career.
“Some very loyal people have been sacrificed as David has taken over.” A US record company source said Furnish had also been meddling in Elton’s music with unintentional consequences.
She said: “There’s a story. Furnish goes into Capitol Records in America — Elton’s label.
“Steve Barnett, the CEO, kicks him out after 20 minutes and says to his team, ‘I don’t want Elton . . . ’
“The meeting ends abruptly and Elton’s left without a label. That’s why he moved to Island two months ago, another label in Universal that will have him.
“It’s a terrible state of affairs for a major global artist.
“Elton is not set up financially like a Rod Stewart. Unlike him, he doesn’t own all of the publishing rights to his music and so doesn’t earn the same kind of royalty cheques. He has six houses to run all over the world with a huge team of staff. That all has to be paid for. It costs millions. He does the touring because that brings the money in.”
Furnish’s apparent power grab comes as he and Elton have developed markedly different lifestyles.
The singer has turned his back on wild parties involving sex and drugs in favour of quiet time in his mansion with his sons.
A US source said: “Elton is 68 years old. He has had a rough ride and not had the easiest of lives.
“He very much wants a quieter life and to devote as much time as possible to his sons.
“David is still a relatively young man who likes the company of younger people, so he is still up for the odd party.”
He is also a doting father.
But The Sun has revealed how he likes to party on yachts in the South of France with musclebound young men, as his Instagram and Facebook accounts reveal. And he has never publicly explained why one of those young men, Danny Williams, lives in a flat owned by Furnish.
In June we revealed how Furnish splashed out more than £330,000 for a two-bed luxury apartment in South London for his close friend.
Furnish also helped decorate the flat, for which Danny pays him rent. Land registry records show it was bought in 2013, after the pair met on the gay clubbing scene.
David then jetted model Danny on a string of lavish holidays, including first-class trips to Hawaii.
Leeds-born Danny is openly gay but has a 12-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter from a relationship with a woman. He now works as a personal trainer.
Elton and Furnish tied the knot on December 21, 2005, the same day civil partnerships for gays were legalised. They officially married last December after the law changed again.
Today they split their time between two American homes, in Atlanta and Los Angeles, three in the UK and one in France.
While Elton is in the middle of a world tour and will be performing in LA in January, Furnish is still working as a film and stage producer, responsible for the 3D animation Gnomeo & Juliet and Billy Elliot The Musical.
He also works one day a week on the Elton John Aids Foundation, which has raised nearly £134million.
In an interview with The Sun, Elton said he was hoping to scale back, leaving the way clear for David to take a much greater role.
He said: “Yeah, a simplification of things. My life has got simpler over the last few years, I have a great steady relationship with David, I’m sober, I have a great career.
“I have my children now, which was much more of a calming influence on me than I ever thought it would be.”
– The Sun
David’s response to the PR firm change:
‘With an artist of Elton’s stature…it’s extremely challenging to break through the diverse clutter of communications that now exist to make fans aware that he’s still creating brilliant new music.
‘Relying solely on traditional press just doesn’t sell records these days. We moved our business over to Murray Chalmers as his talents embrace the multitude of ways in which music fans consume and get their information about music today.’
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