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Tensions between Prince heirs continue, questions asked about Universal deals

By | Published on Wednesday 29 March 2017


Questions are being asked about the three big deals done between the Prince estate and Universal Music by some of the late musician’s heirs, or at least those advising said heirs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though the two men who negotiated the deals – L Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman – insist that everything was above board, with one dismissing any complaints from Prince’s siblings as “sour grapes”.

As previously reported, Universal secured the big three deals with the Prince estate, getting the rights to rep the musician’s self-released and unreleased recordings via its record company, his songs catalogue via its music publisher, and his brand and merchandise business via its merch company Bravado. It’s thought the three deals combined were worth around $60 million. However, the WSJ says that some of those close to the estate are now asking whether there were actually better deals that could have been done.

This is in part based on allegations that the estate generally ignored attempts to bid by Sony Music and didn’t provide Warner Music with enough information about the recordings catalogue available to represent. Sources also claim that Sony/ATV put forward what might have been a better offer for the music publishing rights, while at least one other party topped Bravado’s bid for the merchandising rights.

McMillan insists that he and Koppelman secured the best deals for the estate, pointing out that the two men were on a commission – so were incentivised to maximise the return – though that they also had to consider other factors, such as each bidder’s size, scope, expertise and vision. He adds that there wasn’t actually much information to share regarding the vault of unreleased recordings – because no one has as yet delved into that library – and that the other bidder for merch rights wanted to buy rather than license the Prince brand, which wasn’t an option the estate was considering.

As previously reported, there have been various tensions and disagreements between the six presumed heirs of Prince, some of whom have already criticised McMillan and Koppelman’s work for the estate. Those heirs also blocked McMillan’s bid to become a permanent advisor to the estate, with the judge overseeing the case ultimately deciding not to officially appoint any individual advisors because of the ongoing disagreements.

Elsewhere in Prince estate news, the legal wrangling continues between it and Tidal over what rights the streaming service was given by the musician before his death to stream his recordings. As previously reported, the estate argues that Tidal only secured short-term exclusive rights to Prince’s penultimate album, but the streaming firm says it had a wider arrangement with the star, who took most of his music off the other streaming services after striking up an alliance with Tidal and its owner Jay-Z.

The matter went legal last year, with the estate arguing that Tidal doesn’t have the paperwork to back up its claims of having a wider deal with Prince. In the latest development, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Tidal is now seemingly arguing that in 2015 Prince became one of the streaming firm’s celebrity shareholders via an arrangement which obligated the musician to license it the streaming rights in his catalogue. A so called ‘equity term sheet’ setting out the basics of that arrangement has been submitted as evidence.