Reached for comment, L. Londell McMillan, an advisor to the estate, told Billboard that he has “no knowledge of any discussions in that report,” and emphasized “there is no sale [of Prince’s music assets], and those responsible for the assets are not in discussions with anyone regarding a sale.” McMillan confirmed to Billboard last week that the estate is considering offers, including bids from all three major labels, to license — not purchase — Prince’s catalog and unreleased material.
The report claims that Jay made a $40 million offer to Tyka Nelson and her husband, Maurice Phillips, at a meeting in New York several weeks ago, although exactly what sort of arrangement was discussed is unclear. The report also says that Jay is in the running for “the overall deal for streaming rights” — which seems plausible, as Jay’s Tidal music-subscription service struck an exclusive deal with the artist a few months before his death on April 21, and recently added several previously unavailable Prince albums to its offerings, although the terms and length of the deal are unclear.
Representatives for Jay Z and Tyka Nelson had not responded to Billboard’s request for comment at press time.
In the years after Prince’s initial deal with Warner Bros., which spanned from the beginning of his professional career in 1977 to 1996, the artist — who railed against the traditional label system and doggedly (and at times, dogmatically) insisted on controlling the rights to his own work and likeness — struck many different one-off deals with labels and streaming services, and even returned to Warner Bros. in 2014 for a pair of new albums, and a renegotiation that saw him gaining at least some of the rights to his Warner catalog.
Negotiations for the licensing rights to much of Prince’s overall catalog, as well as to four decades’ worth of unreleased material, are ongoing. One high-placed source opined to Billboard that the deal is “Warner’s to lose,” citing Prince’s long history with the company, and the good will fostered by the 2014 deal.
Indeed, as Billboard exclusively reported earlier this month, Warner — through an arrangement with Prince’s NPG Records — will be the first company to release Prince music after his death, with a 40-track greatest hits collection called Prince 4Ever arriving on Nov. 22, and a deluxe edition of the artist’s biggest-selling album, 1984’s Purple Rain — including a full album of previously unreleased material — slated for early next year.
Prince, who died suddenly of an accidental overdose on April 21, apparently left behind no will, which left his vast music holdings and other assets — not to mention, exactly who his beneficiaries are — in a state of considerable confusion. However, representatives for his estate have moved to clarify the situation, in May appointing Bremer Trust in Minneapolis as the temporary administrator. The following month Bremer appointed longtime Prince associates McMillan (who was the artist’s manager and/or attorney for more than a decade) and Charles Koppelman (who, as head of EMI Records, signed Prince to his first post-Warner Bros. deal in 1996) as advisers on the musical holdings.