As I have posted before Courts ordered an investigation into the nullified $31 million deal between the Prince estate and Universal Music Group. The deal comprised all of Prince’s music not under contract to Warner Music as well as the contents of his “vault” reportedly containing thousands of unreleased recordings. The deal was rescinded in July following the investigation of Warner’s claims it held the rights to some of the recordings included in the Universal deal due to expiration dates of Warner’s rights over them.
According to an announcement at the time, those recordings comprised most of Prince’s released work after he ended his initial deal with Warner Bros in 1996 as well as unreleased material, but also rights to certain recordings within that initial Warner deal; Warner is disputing those terms. Prince entered a new deal with Warner in 2014 that gave him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label.
The Court has recommended that the estate seek repayment for fees and commissions paid to its legal counsel and entertainment advisors, Charles Koppelman and L. Londell McMillan estimated to be around $3.1 million. As they were paid for their work in brokering that deal and several others including agreements for music-publishing, merchandising and performance rights — but in the recorded-music deal they did not provide “anything of value that would entitle [them] to a commission” and that “it appears that the advisors did not comport themselves with the requisite care, skill and prudence called for under the circumstances.”
The Court found Bremer Trust, the temporary administrator of the estate (which has since been replaced by Comerica Bank), had acted “prudently and reasonably” and saw no basis to purse a claim against it.
Sharon, Norrine and John Nelson who are represented by McMillan, filed a petition in October to remove Comerica as the estate’s personal representative as they believe they are insufficiently familiar with Prince’s music and business to be a suitable representative. This is illustrated by the improper and unauthorized decision to move the “vault” from Paisley Park in Minnesota to Los Angeles; and for improperly defending the rescinded recorded-music deal with Universal.
Comerica argued that many items in Prince’s vault were damaged due to neglect and poor storage procedures at Paisley Park; and that the estate’s current entertainment advisor, Troy Carter, headed off a lawsuit from Universal Music Group over the rescinded recorded-music deal.
It is worth noting that it seems strange that Prince didn’t leave a Will given the control he exerted over his image, likeness, name and recordings. The fact that he didn’t leave a clear direction for how his estate would be distributed following his death has left his artistic legacy in the hands of the court instead of those who had a greater love and knowledge of his plans.