Judge Kevin Eide approved Universal Music Group and Comerica Bank’s motion to nullify the $31 million recorded-music deal the label had forged earlier this year with the estate of Prince Rogers Nelson. As Variety originally reported back in February, UMG announced it had completed a recorded-music deal with the estate of Prince; however, by April reports were already circulating that the deal was in danger of unraveling. In last week’s motion, Universal argued that special advisors for the estate at the time, L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, had misrepresented the assets the estate holds, and Universal entered into the deal mistakenly believing it was acquiring recordings that remain under contract to Prince’s original label, Warner Music Group.
The main sticking point was expiration dates: In the original release announcing the deal, Universal said it would start to gain the rights to certain Warner material in 2018, but Prince had reportedly cut a new deal with Warner Bros. in 2014 that sources say gave him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label (albeit with certain key exceptions). Variety says Warner Bros, had kept that 2014 agreement with Prince private until Judge Eide ordered the company to share it with Universal last month. In a court document released last month, UMG wrote that McMillan said on June 22 that the Warner agreement “could have been drafted better,” and “there is no dispute that these rights are confusing.”
In a joint statement released last Thursday evening, UMG and the estate said, “Universal Music Group and the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson welcome the court’s approval of our amicable resolution to this matter. We look forward to continuing to work closely together on Prince’s music publishing and merchandise to ensure that we deliver the very best experiences to Prince’s fans around the world.” The decision does not affect Universal’s other deals with the estate struck by Koppelman and McMillan, which include music publishing and merchandising.