Prince Estate Splits in Two as Functioning Structure Over Artist’s Music, Legacy

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The estate of Prince, which has been in a state of flux since the artist’s death in 2016, has finally found some structure by splitting into two separate parties that will work together to distribute the artist’s music and explore other opportunities to expand the artist’s legacy moving forward.

In a formal court ruling on Feb. 8, a Minnesota judge decided against Primary Wave’s proposal to create a single holding company. Instead, the ruling divided the six heirs into two camps, including the three siblings who sold their interests to Primary Wave in 2021, and the remaining three who have retained their holdings.

The siblings are not required to “contribute their share to a business entity against their wishes,” according to the ruling by Judge Kevin Eide. “The heirs have waited for almost six years to have some control over how the Prince estate moves forward,” said Judge Eide. “The court will not, by choice, order that their share of the estate be turned over to a single holding company.”

Eide added, “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. The court will require that the management structure be in place before distribution.”

In 2021, three of the six siblings sold a large portion of their inheritance in the estate to the independent music publisher and talent management company Primary Wave. At the time of his death, Prince had no will in place, and his heirs next in line were his sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings. Primary Wave made previous offers to heirs Sharon, Norrine, and John Nelson, who declined.

Under the ruling, the holdings will be distributed equally among the two parties of Prince’s estate, which was recently valued at $156.4 million. Both camps will now have a manageable structure to work together and capitalize on the artist’s music catalog.

Though the estate has been fragmented since the artist’s death in 2016, it has still released several reissues and compilations from Prince’s catalog and can now explore more opportunities around merchandise and clothing, music, and more moving ahead.

“To those who were close to Prince, we know he represented not just music but also independence and freedom,” said one of the sibling’s advisors and Prince’s former lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, in a statement. McMillan also referred to the timing of the artist’s 19th album, released following his departure from Warner Bros. Music in 1996. “In fact, this is the 25th anniversary of ‘Emancipation.’ I am pleased the Court ruled in our favor over Primary Wave’s plan.”

McMillan added, “Our SNJLC [Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, L. Londell McMillan, Charles Spicer and the co-trustees 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.”

Photo: Primary Wave

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