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Prince estate recommends rescinding Universal’s $30 million recordings deal

By | Published on Monday 22 May 2017


The bank that is administrating the Prince estate – Comercia – has recommended to the court overseeing the late musician’s affairs that it rescind the deal done with Universal Music in relation to Prince’s recordings catalogue.

As previously reported, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that execs at Universal – which secured the rights to represent Prince’s recording, publishing and merch rights in three separate multi-million dollar deals – had been having second thoughts about the former of those arrangements now that they had had time to dig into the details of the agreement.

At issue is what rights Warner Music had already secured in relation to Prince’s earlier hits in a deal it did with the musician in 2014, and what limitations that arrangement puts on the recordings catalogue Universal paid $30 million+ to represent moving forward. It was also rumoured that Universal was accusing former Prince estate advisor L Londell McMillan of misrepresenting what was available to the mega-major via the new deal.

A recent filing by Comercia, which took over the administration of the Prince estate after the three Universal deals had been done, confirmed that allegations of misrepresentation had indeed been made against McMillan. And now the bank has formally recommended that the deal between Universal and the estate in relation to Prince’s recordings be rescinded.

According to Billboard, in the new court filing the bank says that Warner Music has claimed that previous estate administrator The Bremer Trust “sold rights to [Universal] that [Warner] already holds”. Comercia adds that it “cannot unequivocally assure [Universal] or the court that no overlap exists”.

A court hearing has now been set for 31 May to consider what should be done about the big recordings deal. If Universal’s arrangement is set aside and its $30 million refunded, presumably the estate will open up a new set of negotiations with anyone interested in representing those Prince recordings that are definitely outside Warner’s existing deal. Both Sony and Warner itself may well bid, plus Universal could enter a lower offer based on what it will actually get to distribute.

Either way, it seems likely that the new deal around Prince’s non-Warner recordings will bring in less than $30 million. It remains to be seen if the mess around the original deal comes back to haunt either McMillan or the Bremer Trust, though the former has already denied any wrongdoing, and the latter said last week that it is “confident that it acted at all times in the best interests of the Nelson Estate”.

Elsewhere in Prince news, the court finally confirmed last week that the musician’s six siblings are all lawful heirs to the estate. So we can stop calling them ‘presumed heirs’ at last.