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DID UNIVERSAL SCORE A PRINCE-LY DEAL?

Did a lack of a legitimate bidding help Universal Music Group score a bargain-basement price on the licensing rights to Prince’s vault of unreleased music? Some folks intimate with Prince’s estate think so.

In January, Universal won the licensing rights to Prince’s trove of tracks he legendarily kept under lock and key, but people familiar with the matter say there wasn’t much of a bidding war, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The auction process is raising questions among people close to Prince’s estate about whether the rights could have been had for more than the $30 million that they said Universal agreed to pay.

Because Prince left no will, the rights to his homemade recordings was sealed after his death. Universal, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group each expressed interest in the recordings, but the estate’s interim administrator submitted only Universal’s proposal; Sony claims it never got a chance to bid, and Warner, Prince’s home for his first 18 albums, asked but didn’t receive requested details, according to the report. 

This agreement, as well as two prior deals with Universal, was made on behalf of the estate by Prince’s ex-lawyer Londell McMillan and former EMI exec Charles Koppelman, who have been serving as advisers to the estate. At the time the deal was made in January, McMillan said he felt like he needed to rush to close the deal due to an impending tax payment owed by the estate.

Even as Comerica Bank & Trust has taken over as estate administrator, McMillan has stayed on as a business adviser to four of the songwriter’s six heirs–two of them, Prince’s younger sister Tyka Nelson and half-brother Omarr Baker, have been opposed to his continued role. Nelson and Baker have argued that McMillan’s deal-making has been done not to enhance revenue for the estate but for his own self interest. They are repped by CNN’s Van Jones, a former adviser to Prince.

Stay tuned.

 

 

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