Further details have emerged around Universal Music Group’s demand to nullify a $31 million recorded-music deal it struck with the Prince estate in February. The details were included in a letter from estate manager Comerica Bank that was posted Wednesday on the Minnesota website housing legal documents related to the multiple legal matters surrounding the estate; the letter has since been removed. The details, which were first reported by Billboard, are significant in that they confirm the $31 million figure sources told Variety the deal was for, and that the company is accusing L. Londell McMillan, one of two former special advisors to the estate, of fraudulent inducement.
Confusion over the deal, which covered much of Prince’s recorded works after the termination of his 19-year-long initial deal with Warner Bros. in 1996, began as soon as it was announced in February. The announcement said that “beginning [in 2018], UMG will obtain U.S. rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995” — the years that the artist was signed with Warner Bros. Records and released his most commercially successful recordings by far, including the “1999,” “Purple Rain,” “Parade,” “Batman,” and “Diamonds and Pearls” albums. However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label (albeit with certain key exceptions). So how was UMG’s claim possible?
As Universal’s court action claims the rights were misrepresented and will not be available for several more years. McMillan and his fellow former adviser, Charles Koppelman, were replaced in April by Spotify’s head of creative services, Troy Carter. All three, as well as a rep for Universal, either declined or had not responded to Variety’s requests for comment.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that McMillan represents three of the estate’s six presumptive heirs. In a court hearing outside Minneapolis yesterday, judge Kevin Eide took four issues under advisement, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune: one involving the six siblings’ requests to be officially named his lawful heirs, another involving a claim over a consulting contract by Prince’s niece Brianna Nelson, and two involving McMillan. The three heirs represented by McMillan are seeking for him to have access to details of a $2 million licensing deal. However, Comerica Bank, which manages the estate, is looking into claims surrounding McMillan’s handling of a troubled Prince tribute concert in October.
Omarr Baker, one of Prince’s siblings who was previously represented by McMillan but has since split with him, has subpoenaed documents about McMillan’s business deals surrounding the estate. McMillan has sought to quash the subpoena, a matter Eide is also taking under advisement.
In an exchange of strongly worded memos over the past few weeks, the three heirs have also claimed, among other matters, that McMillan’s status as a representative of heirs and a special adviser to the estate was a conflict of interest; McMillan has denied any wrongdoing.