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PURPLE DRAIN: UMG-PRINCE DEAL HEADING SOUTH

The hottest trending topic among biz folk at Coachella over the weekend was Prince. Industryites at the desert fest were buzzing over news that wheels are in motion to nullify Universal Music Group’s deal with Prince’s estate.

The $30m UMG spent to acquire Prince recordings beginning in 2018 is expected to be returned to the company and the dealmakers—estate advisers Charles Koppelman and L. Londell McMillan—will likely be compelled to return their seven-figure fees, according to insiders.

Insiders say they have been curious about the UMG deal since it was announced UMG would obtain U.S. rights to his post-1996 recordings and certain Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995, i.e., the classics he recorded for Warner Bros. such as Purple Rain, 1999 and Sign ‘O’ the Times. Questions about the legitimacy of the UMG/Prince deal were reported Friday by the The Wall Street Journal and Variety.

Reports state that representatives for the estate—the temporary administrator, Bremer Bank, current administrator Comerica Bank,Koppelman and McMillan—may have misrepresented the terms of the Warner assets. 

A series of deals have been made since Prince’s death in April 2016: Jody Gerson’s Universal got his publishing, performing rights went to Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights, Universal’s Bravado secured the merch and the path was cleared to get the Warner Bros. recordings on streaming services.

Prince had signed a deal with WBR in 2014 and an update of that pact paved the way for the start of a digital releases and a reissue program that includes opening the musician’s vaults. While the deal Universal struck with the estate gave them rights to hundreds of unreleased recordings, the material that had execs licking their chops was clearly the music from the 1980s, both issued and unreleased.

The estate and Comerica have a new special adviser, Spotify executive and former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter, who will likely be charged with overseeing an auction of whatever unreleased Prince recordings are determined to be in play.

So far, nobody has agreed to return anything. Stay tuned.

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