A Minnesota judge on Monday signed off on a deal that will finally end the long court battle over Prince’s $156 million estate, more than six years after the iconic rocker died without a will.
Rolled out at a hearing Friday, the agreement paves the way for disbursement of Prince’s assets, including $6 million in cash and many times that in music rights and other intangibles. They’ll be split between three heirs and their families, their advisers, and Primary Wave — which owns roughly half of the estate.
Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016 at the age of 57. Though legendary for his tight control over his intellectual property 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, his six half-siblings were named legal heirs. Three have since sold all or most of their shares to Primary Wave; three others have retained their stakes. Advisors L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer, who are partnered with the three heirs who declined to sell, also control an undisclosed stake. A bank, Comerica Bank & Trust, was named as a court-appointed administrator, handling the estate’s affairs while the probate case was litigated.
After years of messy wrangling among those parties, the last major hurdle was cleared in January with when the heirs reached a deal with the Internal Revenue Service to set a final tax valuation $156 million. Then in February, the judge overseeing the case approved a basic structure for how the assets would be split between the heirs and Primary Wave.
With those problems out of the way, all that remained was to convert Prince’s holdings into limited liability companies – a step being taken to limit the estate’s tax exposure – and to create a so-called management plan for how the two camps of heirs would work together to administer music and other jointly-held assets.
Those tasks apparently complete, Friday’s deal saw Prince’s cash and various holding companies split evenly between a holding company called Prince Legacy LLC (the heirs plus McMillan and Spicer, and managed by McMillan’s NorthStar Group) and Prince Oat Holdings LLC (Primary Wave). It also cleared a path for Comerica to be discharged as the administrator, after certain closing tasks are completed.
In a statement to Billboard, a rep for Primary Wave said the company was “extremely pleased that the process of closing the Prince Estate has now been finalized.”
“Prince was an iconic superstar and this transfer out of the court’s jurisdiction puts in place professional, skilled management,” Primary Wave said. “When we announced our acquisition of the additional expectancy interests in the estate last year bringing our ownership interest to 50%, our goal was to protect and grow Prince’s incomparable legacy. With the distribution of estate assets, we look forward to a strong and productive working relationship.”
In their own statement, McMillan said that he and his partners were “relieved and thrilled to finally be done with the Probate Court system and bankers who do not know the music business and did not know Prince” and were looking forward to “implementing things the way Prince did.”
“I represented Prince for over 13 years and we led with innovation to reform the music industry – we hope to do the same with his amazing assets and catalog, from his music, film content, exhibits, merchandise, Paisly Park events, branded products and more,” McMillan said in an email. “It is a historical and very exciting time. Prince is almost free to rest now…”
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