In the seven years since Whitney Houston’s death, there has been relatively little of the asset-exploitation that usually follows the passing of a music icon, apart from a smattering of previously unreleased recordings, a pair of harrowing documentaries and a lot of unflattering press.
But according to an article in the New York Times, the estate is now “open for business,” according to executor Pat Houston, and has pacted a deal with publishing/management company Primary Wave for a hologram tour, an album of unreleased material, a musical and more. According to the report, Primary Wave will acquire 50 percent of the estate’s assets — including the singer’s royalties from music and film, merchandising, and the right to exploit her name and likeness — in a deal that values the estate at $14 million.
“It’s been quite emotional for the past seven years,” said Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and former manager. “But now it’s about being strategic.”
First up is the hologram tour, which will feature the late singer’s image accompanied by her original backing band, including Whitney’s brother (and Pat Houston’s husband) Gary. Pat Houston, who managed Whitney’s career from the early 2000s, is the estate’s sole executor, with the singer’s brothers, Gary and Michael, and mother Cissy as the beneficiaries. Also in the works are an album containing outtakes from her 1985 debut album, a Broadway musical and a “Vegas-style spectacle.” For the present, however, “The hologram has taken precedence over everything,” she said.
Pat stressed that despite the personal chaos depicted in the documentaries and the tabloid press, Whitney was not struggling financially at the time of her death. “She had money when she died,” Pat Houston said. “It wasn’t multimillions, like everyone thought, but she wasn’t broke.”
Primary Wave has moved aggressively into the catalog business since its founding in 2006, and works with assets from Smokey Robinson, Bob Marley, Def Leppard and Kenny Logins. And despite the controversy that has surrounded hologram tours featuring deceased icons — which include Amy Winehouse, Frank Zappa, Ronnie James Dio and many others — Pat Houston says the effort is about reclaiming Whitney’s legacy. The singer’s final decade was marred by substance abuse, discord surrounding her troubled marriage to singer Bobby Brown, and subpar albums and concert performances.
“Before she passed, there was so much negativity around the name; it wasn’t about the music anymore,” Pat Houston said. “People had forgotten how great she was. They let all the personal things about her life outweigh why they fell in love with her in the first place.”