A series of heavily redacted documents made public Monday indicate that Prince’s estate is preparing to take legal action against former special music advisors L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, a source close to the situation confirmed to Variety.
Comerica Bank, which was named the estate’s corporate personal representative in January, has moved to appoint a special administrator to “investigate and, if warranted, pursue claims on behalf of the estate … in a situation where the Personal Representative has a conflict of interest.” This is believed to be the case between Comerica and Bremer Bank, which was the estate’s previous, temporary administrator. The documents reference a conference call held on July 28 that included representatives for the two banks, Prince’s six heirs, and McMillan and Koppelman.
The pair executed several deals for the estate during their six-month stint in the role — including publishing and merchandising deals (both with Universal) and performing rights (with Global Music Rights) — but a $31 million recorded-music deal (also with Universal) announced in February was rescinded last month after it became clear that the assets in question had been misrepresented. A tribute concert held in Minneapolis in October was also beset by accusations of mismanagement.
Documents indicate that McMillan and Koppelman received a 10% commission on deals they closed for the estate, although the status of their commission on the Universal recorded-music deal remains undetermined.
Troy Carter, who replaced McMillan and Koppelman as the estate’s special music advisor in April, is not mentioned in the unredacted segments of the documents.
While there has been talk of fraud charges with regard to the rescinded Universal recorded-music deal, several informed parties tell Variety a less extreme solution to the issue is more likely. In a court document released in June, Universal wrote that McMillan said on June 22 that the Warner agreement “could have been drafted better,” and “there is no dispute that these rights are confusing.”
Reached by Variety hours after the Universal recorded-music deal was nullified, McMillan said: “Pleased this is resolved. We respect the Court’s decision. Comerica chose to rescind and I would have chosen otherwise than released Prince music with UMG or independently, as Prince did. There was no wrongdoing on our end. We stand by our work.”
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.