Judge Orders Investigation of Prince Estate's Voided Deal With Universal Music

Prince performs at Skanderborg Festival 2013 in Denmark.
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Prince performs at Skanderborg Festival 2013 in Denmark.

The judge overseeing the Prince estate appointed a second special administrator to investigate whether anyone should be held liable for the cancellation of its $31 million recorded-music deal with Universal Music Group.

The new administrator, Peter Gleekel and his law firm Larson King LLC, is tasked with evaluating whether the estate has a "reasonable basis" to pursue a claim against any entity or individual connected with the July rescission of the deal, and whether it's in the estate's best interest to pursue such a claim.

The deal was one of several licensing agreements negotiated by the estate's former entertainment advisors Charles Koppelman and L. Londell McMillan, and approved by the estate's first special administrator, Bremer Trust, along with the judge.

McMillan, who was Prince's former lawyer and business partner and earned a combined 10 percent commission on the deals with Koppelman, had led the $31 million deal that had given UMG rights to a package of Prince's recorded music, including his trove of unreleased works known as "the vault." UMG sought to void the deal quickly after striking it, amid uncertainty over whether the rights it had been granted conflicted with rights already held by Warner Music Group.

McMillan had lobbied to keep the deal in place, but told Billboard in a text message this week that he thought the judge's decision to appoint a new administrator to investigate "what really happened and who is really responsible" was "wise and responsible."

"As I've always maintained, I stand by my work. We generated great value in a short period of time, did the work properly and there was no need for a rescission. The prior agreement that is the cause for concern was negotiated by Warner Bros. Records and others with Prince before he passed, and not me. My actions were all approved," McMillan told Billboard.

McMillan had reviewed WMG's agreement with Prince and consulted with other lawyers before finalizing the deal with UMG in late January, but UMG wasn't permitted to see the WMG contract until June.

Gleekel is provisionally entitled to $430 per hour for his work and is supposed to submit a report by December 15, according to a court filing. The estate's personal representative, Comerica Bank & Trust, couldn't conduct the investigation itself, due to the terms of agreement it entered into when it took over from Bremer Trust in February.