Artist News Legal

Prince heirs request axing of bank administrating his estate

By | Published on Wednesday 1 November 2017


Three of Prince’s six heirs have now formally requested that the bank administrating the late musician’s estate be removed from that role. The previously reported shift of the Prince recording archives from his former home in Minnesota to a secure storage facility in California is being cited as the many motivation for the request.

As previously reported, there have been various disagreements between Prince’s siblings since his untimely death last year. Though all six heirs did agree to Comercia Bank taking over the administration of the estate from the Bremer Trust, which undertook that role on an interim basis until earlier this year.

That said, while all six heirs approved the appointment of Comercia, three of them almost immediately raised concerns once the bank had started work. Then last month Prince’s half sisters Sharon and Norrine Nelson hit out at the decision to remove master recordings from the vault at their brother’s Paisley Park property and to take them to the storage facility in California, claiming that they had not been consulted about the move.

At the time the bank said: “After reviewing the storage conditions at Paisley Park and out of concern regarding the consequences of a fire or other loss at the facility, Comerica determined that it was necessary to transfer the audio and visual content to a secure location”. It also claimed that the archive move had been discussed with the heirs on at least four occasions before it took place.

Last week legal reps for Sharon and Norrine Nelson, as well as John Nelson, filed legal documents requesting the dismissal of Comercia. The filing cited the bank’s “unilateral decision” to remove the recordings archive as a key reason for their request, though said that the archive move was the “tip of the iceberg” when it came to Comerica’s mishandling of the estate’s affairs.

Sharon and Norrine Nelson subsequently told Variety: “It is clear there are major problems with how the Prince estate is being handled now. The heirs want respect and the fans want music, both of which are missing. The court will have to make the ruling. No bank or individual alone should control Prince’s creative legacy. Comerica and its advisor have inadequate experience for this estate”.

The music that is “missing” presumably relates to recordings from the Prince archive that could be posthumously released. Such a project has been delayed by the collapse of the deal between the estate and Universal Music to exploit the musician’s recordings catalogue.

That fell apart because of confusion over which of Prince’s hits were also covered by the arrangement. Universal execs argued that some of the recordings they thought were part of the deal were already controlled by Warner under its most recent deal with Prince himself.

Comercia’s primary music business advisor is one-time artist manager and now Spotify exec Troy Carter. The three heirs complain about the monies the bank has spent on consulting and legal costs, specifically moaning about fees paid to Carter.

For its part, the bank filed its own papers with the court arguing that its removal at this time “would cause substantial harm” to the Prince estate “jeopardising at least five major entertainment deals currently being negotiated”.

A spokesperson subsequently told NPR that Comercia was “disappointed that certain heirs of the estate of Prince Rogers Nelson have chosen to file an inaccurate and inflammatory petition seeking Comerica’s removal”. The bank added that it “stands behind its team and their administration of the estate”.