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Court voids $31 million deal between Prince’s estate and Universal Music Group

on July 14, 2017, 12:40am

A judge has ordered Prince’s estate to repay $31 million to Universal Music Group after voiding a deal concerning the late artist’s infamous vault of unreleased music.

UMG had purchased a package involving music from Prince’s vault as well as his independent NPG-era back in January. However, the company became concerned about conflicts with the rights already owned by Warner Music Group, and filled suit requesting the transaction be voided (via Billboard).

L. Londell McMillan, Prince’s attorney and long-time business partner who now is a business advisor to three of Prince’s half-sibling heirs and Charles Koppelman had structured the deal for the estate, earning themselves 10% commission. McMillan has spent the last few weeks trying to convince UMG to stick with the deal — perhaps out of fear of losing his payday — contacting executives to assure them the rights they owned were actionable. This only further agitated the UMG execs, who threatened a lawsuit against McMillan for “damaging” their relationship with the estate.

The court order said it had “been suggested that UMG is bluffing and they really wouldn’t file suit,” though after UMG’s attorneys got a look at WMG’s rights agreements and sent a letter to the court on June 26th, the judge decided “this does not appear to be a bluff.” Still, the judge was uneasy about rescinding the deal, but decided it was better than the “long and potentially expensive litigation” that could have arisen from UMG and WMG’s disagreement.

UMG still controls the worldwide rights to administer Prince’s publishing and merchandise. The estate will likely try to again sell the music rights that were returned to them, potentially to WMG, though it’s suspected they’d receive less than the $31 million UMG originally paid.

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