Attorneys for Prince‘s heirs and Primary Wave wrangled Friday over how best to end six years of courtroom proceedings over the iconic artist’s estate, presenting alternate plans to a judge over how to start distributing his assets.
At a hearing in Minnesota state court, attorneys for three of Prince’s siblings dueled over corporate structures with attorneys representing Primary Wave – which has acquired half the estate from three other siblings.
Friday’s hearing came three weeks after the estate reached an agreement with the IRS to end a dispute over the proper tax valuation of the estate, setting the value at $156.4 million and avoiding a March trial against the feds. The tax settlement was the last major hurdle to closing out a messy case that has dragged on for nearly six years, since the legendary artist died without a will in April 2016.
But the two camps still must figure out a process for actually distributing the estate’s assets to the various stakeholders. Thus far, they’ve been unable to agree on how to do that – and both are now seeking a ruling from Judge Kevin W. Eide to endorse their preferred plan.
At Friday’s hearing, Primary Wave urged the judge to put the estate’s assets into a single holding company, in which the various parties would divvy up shares of control. But the three independent heirs argued instead for each camp to get their own separate corporate entity, which would be bound together by a management agreement.
The heirs argued that the judge could not legally “force” them into a single entity with Primary Wave against their will and that their plan was a faster route to finally ending the legal ordeal.
“It’s been six years,” said Alan I. Silver, who represents the three independent heirs. “The heirs have not received any money from this estate. What we’re proposing to you is that you sign an order that will allow that to change.”
But Primary Wave’s attorney, Eric J. Magnuson, argued back that splitting the assets into separate companies would cause immense logistical issues since so many of Prince’s assets are “interrelated” to one another.
“With all due respect your honor, nobody likes being in the probate court,” Magnuson said. “But there are some real practical problems that [the other side] has just glossed over.” Later, near the end of the hearing, Magnuson argued that the heirs’ proposal simply “makes no sense.”
The estate’s administrator, Comerica Bank & Trust, which participated in Friday’s hearing, mostly avoided choosing sides. Judge Eide did not issue a ruling at the conclusion of the hearing, taking the issues under advisement for a future decision.
Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016 at the age of 57. Though legendary for his tight control over his IP rights, the iconic artist died without a will – sparking a complex process known as probate in which courts decide how to disperse a deceased person’s estate.
Because Prince died with no children or spouse, six of his half-siblings were named legal heirs, each entitled to 1/6th shares of his estate. But three have since sold all or most of their shares to Primary Wave, meaning the company stands to inherit about half of Prince’s estate. Advisors L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer, who have worked with the three heirs who didn’t sell, also control an undisclosed stake.
Much of the recent delay stemmed from a dispute with the IRS over taxes. The IRS said the estate was worth $163.2 million for tax purposes; Comerica said that number was just $82.3 million. The two had been set to square off in March in federal tax court but settled last month on a final valuation of $156.4 million.