As the Prince estate moves forward after years of confusion following the singer’s 2016 death, the six heirs are divided into two camps: the three siblings who sold their interests to Primary Wave, and the three who have retained their holdings.
With the value of the estate recently determined at $156.4 million, the two parties are now establishing a structure for how to work together. In a ruling on Tuesday, a Minnesota judge decided against Primary Wave’s proposal to create a single holding company. Instead, the holdings will be distributed equally to the two camps, who will likely set up separate holding companies: Primary Wave and the three siblings and their advisors, L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer, who are said to hold a stake in the estate.
On Tuesday, Judge Kevin Eide said he would not order the siblings to “contribute their share to a business entity against their wishes… The heirs have waited for almost six years to have some control over how the Prince estate moves forward. The court will not, by choice, order that their share of the estate be turned over to a single holding company.”
However, Eide said he will not grant final approval until the two sides formally agreed on a workable management structure.
“It would not be equitable for one heir to withhold their ascent to business opportunities that bind the other Heirs or diminish the value of Estate assets,” he wrote. “The court will require that the management structure be in place before distribution.”
There is little question that the formidable legal complications in Prince’s estate have hampered the estate’s ability to capitalize on the value of his music and holdings. While the estate has released several expertly curated reissues and compilations of his music, it has done so at a significantly slower pace than Bob Dylan’s or David Bowie’s catalogs — and multiple opportunities beyond recorded music, from musicals to biopics to clothing lines to destination Las Vegas shows, have remained unrealized thus far.
A rep for Primary Wave said, ““This is a provisional ruling that simply decides that the heirs and all parties are distributed interests in multiple entities that hold the Estate assets rather than one holding entity. The judge’s ruling was in response to a request from all sides to decide on a preliminary basis the form of any distribution from the estate. His order specifically provides that he will review the issue further if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on management of the assets once distributed. Primary Wave has always felt it important to integrate all aspects of Prince’s business and assets because creatively, all assets interplay. The ruling requires an appropriate management agreement among all parties, which we wholeheartedly support. We continue to look forward to working with all interested parties to expand and preserve Prince’s legacy.”
In a statement to Variety, McMillan said, “To those who were close to Prince, we know he represented not just music but also independence and freedom. In fact, this is the 25th anniversary of ‘Emancipation,’” he wrote, referring to the first album Prince released after leaving his contentious contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1996. “I am pleased the Court ruled in our favor over Primary Wave’s plan. Our SNJLC [Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, L. Londell McMillan, Charles Spicer and the Co-Trusteees of the John R. Nelson Revocable Trust] group represents Prince’s legacy, we have worked hard to help close the Estate, and we look forward to soon managing the estate with all stakeholders to preserve his true legacy.”