It’s Official: Prince’s Estate Manager and Universal Music Group Move to Nullify Recorded-Music Deal
As expected, Universal Music Group and Comerica Bank, the manager of Prince’s estate, are moving ahead with plans to terminate the $31 million recorded-music deal announced earlier this year. On Thursday Comerica Bank, the estate’s manager, filed a motion to approve recission of the the agreement, which, according to an announcement at the time, comprised most of Prince’s recordings after he ended his initial deal with Warner Bros. in 1996 as well as unreleased material, but also said that Universal would attain rights to certain recordings within that initial Warner deal beginning next year.
A significant portion of Comerica’s motion is directed either to Mr. McMillan’s alleged conduct during the negotiation L. Londell McMillan, one of two former advisers to the estate, who negotiated the deal on its behalf.
Confusion over the deal, which covered much of Prince’s recorded works after the termination of his 19-year-long initial deal with Warner Bros. in 1996, began as soon as it was announced in February. The announcement said that “beginning [in 2018], UMG will obtain U.S. rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995” — the years that the artist was signed with Warner Bros. Records and released his most commercially successful recordings by far, including the “1999,” “Purple Rain,” “Parade,” “Batman,” and “Diamonds and Pearls” albums. However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label (albeit with certain key exceptions).
McMillan and Koppelman were replaced as advisers in April by Spotify’s head of creative services, Troy Carter. All three, as well as a rep for Universal, either declined or had not responded to Variety’s requests for comment.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that McMillan represents three of the estate’s six presumptive heirs. In a court hearing outside Minneapolis last week, judge Kevin Eide took four issues under advisement, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune: one involving the six siblings’ requests to be officially named his lawful heirs, another involving a claim over a consulting contract by Prince’s niece Brianna Nelson, and two involving McMillan. The three heirs represented by McMillan are seeking for him to have access to details of a $2 million licensing deal. However, Comerica is also looking into claims surrounding McMillan’s handling of a troubled Prince tribute concert in October.
Omarr Baker, one of Prince’s siblings who was previously represented by McMillan but has since split with him, has subpoenaed documents about McMillan’s business deals surrounding the estate. McMillan has sought to quash the subpoena, a matter Eide is also taking under advisement.
In an exchange of strongly worded memos over the past few weeks, the three heirs have also claimed, among other matters, that McMillan’s status as a representative of heirs and a special adviser to the estate was a conflict of interest; McMillan has denied any wrongdoing.