Former Prince Estate Advisor Denies Misrepresenting Recorded Music Assets
As controversy continues to swirl regarding the licensing of Prince's recorded-music catalog, a former advisor to the late icon's estate has released a statement to Billboard denying allegations that the estate misrepresented the rights to Prince's recordings in negotiations with Universal Music Group.
In February, UMG announced it had won the global rights to license Prince's post-1996 catalog, unreleased recordings from his legendary vault and, as early as 2018, would begin to take over U.S. licensing and distribution for "certain key titles" from Prince's 1978-1995 catalog recorded while under contract to Warner Music Group, in a deal worth a reported $30 million. But in recent weeks, doubts over the deal emerged, leading UMG to send a letter to Comerica Bank, currently the administrator for the Prince estate after taking over from Bremer Trust on Feb. 1, alleging that representatives from the Prince camp misrepresented what rights from the Warner catalog would be available.
Since Prince's sudden death at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, several deals have been signed regarding the management of his entertainment assets: UMG's recorded masters deal; Universal Music Publishing Group being named publishing administrator for the Prince catalog; and Universal's Bravado division handling branding and merchandising. Additionally, Prince's catalog became available on all streaming services for the first time on Feb. 12, after the purple one had famously withheld his music from all services but Tidal in the final years of his life.
Shortly after Prince's death, Bremer Trust was named as the estate's special administrator, while longtime Prince associates L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman were brought in as entertainment advisors to work on negotiations surrounding Prince's musical assets. Both have since been replaced, with Spotify executive and former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter being named to take over that role last week. On April 17, Carter released a statement distancing himself and Comerica from the recorded-music deal and noting it was negotiated under the Bremer/McMillan/Koppelman team, saying the current estate hierarchy is "in the process of assessing all rights relating to Prince's recorded music."
Today, McMillan released a statement to Billboard that stressed that there was no misrepresentation in negotiations with Universal Music Group, and emphasizing his long history with both Prince and within the broader entertainment industry.
"I was a friend, attorney and manager for Prince for over a decade," McMillan wrote. "Recently, I've been asked by the Estate's court approved representative to allow them the freedom to handle this matter; please note, however, there were no misrepresentations on this or any matter.
"I've been practicing law and advising leading artists, athletes and businesses in entertainment and sports for over 27 years and my record with and outside of Prince speaks for itself," he continued. "Any suggestion that there was any misrepresentation is false and without merit. There are many motives surrounding my friend Prince's Estate. We are proud of the work done with the Prince Estate to protect it and monetize the assets in a manner he would approve."
Additional reporting by Ed Christman