Prince Estate
Estate Planning

Prince Estate: The Battle Continues

(Source: Forbes): When Prince passed away in April 2016, he left behind a lifetime of work in the Prince Estate. Famously owning the masters to all of his music, including best-selling albums and a vault of unreleased songs, Prince’s discography was passed down to his estate. However, after negotiating several licensing deals, the estate has run into some trouble. The $31 million deal with Universal Music Group was rescinded in July due to a possible conflict with the rights of Warner Bros. Records – the label that released his first eighteen albums. Yet, even with the rescission, UMG apparently still controls the rights to Prince’s worldwide publishing and merchandise.

While most thought the case was said and done, the judge appointed a second special administrator todayPeter Gleekel of Larson King LLCGleekel is tasked to  decide whether or not someone should be held accountable for the cancellation of the UMG deal, and if the estate has a right to pursue a claim against any of the parties involved. He has until December 15th to submit a report.

If Prince’s estate hopes to see justice, it may need take it up with its former advisors. Did Bremer Trust, the first special administrator of the estate, know of the existence, content and import of the agreement with Warner Bros. Records when the UMG deal was approved? The former entertainment advisers, Charles Koppelman and L. Londell McMillan, may catch some of the blame, advising the estate to enter the UMG agreement without sufficient disclosure, if they had such knowledge.  While McMillan, Prince’s former business partner and attorney, maintains, “I stand by my work. We generated great value in a short period of time, did the work properly and there was no need for a rescission. The prior agreement that is the cause for concern was negotiated by Warner Bros. Records and others with Prince before he passed, and not me. My actions were all approved,” there was clearly a loss of information somewhere down the line.

It’s hard to know how this dispute will end. However, now that UMG has the worldwide rights to Prince’s music and merchandise without paying the $31 million, it may be a worthwhile case to pursue.