Prince Heirs Accuse Estate Advisers of Mismanaging Tribute Concert
L. Londell McMillan of the estate calls the allegations "wildly and unethically false."
Two of the heirs likely to receive a share of Prince's multimillion-dollar estate have accused the estate's special entertainment advisers of mismanaging an October tribute concert and holding on to profits the estate was guaranteed to receive. The pair are seeking at least $7 million.
In documents filed with the Carver County District Court, where Prince's probate case is being heard, Prince's sister Tyka Nelson and his half-brother Omarr Baker leveled the mismanagement charge at veteran entertainment attorneys L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, who have been employed by the estate as experts to help monetize Prince's entertainment assets and have entered a number of licensing agreements on behalf of the estate. Last week, the two siblings also opposed McMillan being appointed a special adviser to the estate, favoring former Prince associate and CNN commentator Van Jones for the role; the judge ultimately ruled that one was not necessary.
Nelson and Baker also argued that Bremer Trust, the temporary special administrator of the estate that hired McMillan and Koppelman, should be liable for the attorneys' actions and should not be discharged until the heirs received a proper accounting of the profits from the concert. Bremer, which was appointed by the court to temporarily administer Prince's estate shortly after his death on April 21, is currently scheduled to turn over its management duties to a permanent representative, Comerica Bank and Trust N.A., at the end of January.
"The allegations are wildly and unethically false as well as damaging to the Estate and Heirs who gained financially," said McMillan in a statement to Billboard. "Our focus remains to protect and maximize the value of the Prince estate and legacy. I understand the appropriate responses to these absurd comments will be forthcoming by Bremer."
All monetary figures are redacted from the court document, but at a court hearing on Jan. 12, the heirs' attorney, Steven H. Silton mentioned a guarantee of $7 million. Judge Kevin W. Eide immediately cautioned Silton that he was discussing confidential matters in open court.
Originally planned for the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the tribute concert was later moved to the smaller Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Along the way, some performers were announced before they were confirmed, and other performers dropped out along the way.
According to Nelson and Baker, Bremer, on the advice of McMillan and Koppelman, hired Jobu Presents, a company formed solely to promote this concert, instead of more experienced promoters. Jobu backed out, but still paid McMillan a commission, which Bremer never tried to recoup, the heirs allege.
"Mr. McMillan profited greatly from the sold-out tribute concert and the after-party from the use and exploitation of estate assets," the document states, adding that Bremer failed to seek compensation from McMillan.
McMillan, who represented Prince for 13 years and freed him of his Warner Bros. contract in the '90s, was one of two attorneys recently in contention to assist Comerica as a co-personal representative of the estate, with the support of four of Prince's likely heirs. Nelson and Baker, however, wanted the appointment to go to Anthony "Van" Jones, the nonprofit organizer and CNN commentator who oversaw much of Prince's philanthropic activities; he is also co-counsel with Silton to Nelson and Baker. Earlier this week, Judge Eide refused to appoint either attorney, saying that a representative who did not have unanimous support of the heirs would be divisive.
Nelson and Baker claim that in addition to the concert proceeds, Bremer's final accounting does not list the full value of other estate assets, including revenue streams from Prince's recordings. The overall value of the estate is currently estimated to be as much as $300 million.
Prince died April 21 last year of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl. Because he apparently left no will, Judge Eide and Bremer spent much of 2016 fielding numerous claims from people insisting they were related to Prince, few of whom presented a strong enough case to even warrant genetic testing. At a recent hearing, the judge said the estate would likely be dived between the six people listed on the initial filing with the court: sister Tyka Nelson and half-siblings Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John Nelson, Omarr Baker, and Alfred Jackson.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated with comment from L. Londell McMillan