A Carver County judge overseeing the Prince estate said Thursday that he would not definitively name the heirs to his vast fortune yet, but indicated that the late musician’s siblings would be among them.
District Judge Kevin Eide approved the application of Comerica Bank & Trust to replace Bremer Trust as special administrator and took testimony over whether to appoint either CNN political commentator and attorney Van Jones or New York entertainment attorney L. Londell McMillan as kind of co-executor of the estate. He made no decision on the latter point, however.
Prince’s siblings and presumptive heirs are split over who should help manage the late musician’s estate pending distribution to his heirs.
Jones and McMillan each testified Thursday afternoon, outlining why they think their appointment would benefit the estate.
Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and half-brother Omarr Baker have filed objections to the proposed appointment of McMillan, who has been acting as a special adviser to Bremer Trust, the outgoing special administrator appointed by the court after Prince’s accidental death from an overdose of painkillers in April.
Nelson and Baker alleged in court filings this week that McMillan has a conflict of interest because he gets a 10 percent commission on contracts the estate has signed thus far to market Prince’s music and persona.
The court filings include an affidavit from Randy Jackson, a brother of the late rock star Michael Jackson. He says that when McMillan represented his mother, Katherine Jackson, he did not always act in her best interest but rather, acted at times to enrich himself.
Because Prince left no will, Tyka Nelson, and his half-siblings, Baker, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John Nelson and Alfred Jackson, are likely heirs to his fortune, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million before taxes, which are expected to claim roughly half. Much of the value remains to be determined.
Eide said pending appeals were holding up his final designation of heirs. He closed the courtroom to observers to discuss financial matters.
Sharon Nelson endorsed McMillan, saying he would communicate with the family and brings music industry knowledge the estate would need moving forward. She said Bremer, whose involvement in the Prince estate will end Jan. 31, didn’t go an adequate job communicating with the potential heirs.
McMillan talked about his experience with other musicians and his 13-year relationship with Prince, helping him get out of a record contract with Warner Bros.
“Prince was a loving, easy person to work with,” McMillan said. “Unless you went against his will, which drove his deals.”
Jones testified about his own relationship with Prince and how he would work to unify the heirs. He put together the team that got Prince his original master recordings and publishing rights for his Warner Bros. material, and quietly helped him with the artist’s philanthropic efforts.
“I knew Prince’s special sauce, which is to say I knew how he did business,” Jones said. “This is the first time that I’ve even spoken publicly about being involved in the estate case.”
In a petition filed in December, Tyka Nelson asked for either Fiduciary Trust Co. International or Comerica. Fiduciary Trust recently withdrew from consideration without explanation. The presumptive heirs now agree that Comerica should oversee the estate.All of the siblings except Tyka Nelson and Baker want McMillan appointed as co-representative.
Tyka Nelson and Baker support having Jones, who is Baker’s attorney, act as co-representative. Jones said he was not charging them or the estate. They objected to McMillan’s appointment, arguing in court filings that he’s unreliable.
Thomas Kane and Jeffrey Kolodny, two of the attorneys representing Tyka Nelson and Baker, said in a court filing Wednesday that McMillan had offered Tyka Nelson a $10 million “no risk” loan, ostensibly to convince her of his ability to act as a representative of the estate. Kane’s memorandum says that McMillan has not produced information needed to assess his ability to act in that capacity, and that he has outstanding judgments against him that raise questions about his financial suitability for the job.
The United Kingdom’s High Court of Justice found McMillan liable for nonpayment of a $540,000 loan from Barclays Bank to support Mr. McMillan’s former law firm, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Kane and Kolodny wrote. They also noted that the court openly questioned McMillan’s reliability.
Although McMillan was retained as an entertainment industry adviser to Bremer Trust, Kane and Kolodny said, “he views himself in a substantially larger role.”
“Mr. McMillan has negotiated with the Heirs’ counsel on behalf of himself with little input from the Special Administrator or its counsel, Stinson Leonard Street,” the lawyers wrote. They noted that McMillan has known Traci Bransford, a partner in Stinson Leonard Street, long before Prince’s death. They said they’ve asked repeatedly, to no avail, how Bremer Trust decided to employ McMillan and why he was allowed to play such a large role.
Kane and Kolodny suggest that McMillan bungled a tribute concert for Prince in October, arranged an after-party using estate assets without informing the heirs, and leaked confidential information to Billboard magazine about the $35 million sale of Prince’s “vault masters.” (McMillan denied being the source.) They added that McMillan’s “behavior on Twitter” — where he cited his ongoing work with the estate — could cause it substantial damage.
Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson contributed information to this report.