Court documents were made public Monday (Nov. 13) in the effort of Prince’s heirs’ to dismiss Comerica Bank & Trust as representative of the late singer’s estate. Their reasons include what they claim is an unauthorized decision to move Prince’s “vault” of unreleased recordings to Los Angeles from his Paisley Park home in Minnesota.
According to Comerica, the vault had to be moved because many of the items inside were damaged due to neglect and poor storage procedures at Paisley Park, Variety reports.
As previously reported, the vault was at the center of a $31 million deal with UMG, but during the inventory process on-site at Paisley Park in March 2017, the Personal Representative “discovered several circumstances that caused it concern regarding the safety and longevity of the Estate’s assets at Paisley Park,” the document reads.
“None of the spaces being used for storage … have climate control systems sufficient to preserve audio and video material,” the document continues. “During its inventory, the Personal Representative discovered several indications of damage and degradation due to poor humidity and temperature controls. It encountered cardboard boxes that were adhered to shelves and had to be peeled off, mold and water damage on the materials, rusting film canisters, degrading film that smelled of vinegar (a sign of acetate degradation), and evidence of water intrusion on walls and ceilings in the vault and elsewhere. … [additionally], Paisley Park is now a museum and open to the public, further heightening security concerns.
“Based on these deficiencies in the security and the storage conditions generally at Paisley Park,” the document reads, “the Personal Representative concluded that it was in the best interest of the Estate to store the Decedent’s irreplaceable audio and video assets elsewhere” and chose Iron Mountain’s Los Angeles facility for its security and ability to store the materials in a climate controlled environment, and also in a location that “permits the Estate to preview content for its entertainment partners with greater convenience and less expense.”
Brian Wolfe, manager of Comerica’s estate administration department, noted, “It was apparent that there had not been an organization system in place for storing the assets, as they were not arranged by chronology or in any other discernible order, nor was there any cataloging system to account for all of the assets.” He stated that approximately 90% of the vault has been inventoried.
As previously reported, Prince’s heirs – Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John Nelson – in October made a petition to dismiss Comerica as representative of the estate. In addition to citing Comerica’s transfer of the “vault,” the heirs also accuse the bank of improperly defending a $31 million recorded-music deal with Universal Music Group that was rescinded; and essentially for being insufficiently familiar with Prince’s music and business to be a suitable representative.
Comerica responded that the estate’s current entertainment advisor, Troy Carter, headed off a lawsuit from Universal Music Group over disagreements involving the ownership of some recordings in the $31 million recorded-music deal negotiated by the estate’s previous advisers, L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman. That deal has since been rescinded without a lawsuit; McMillan, an attorney, represents the three heirs attempting to dismiss Comerica.
Further documents present long lists of what it says are more than $50 million worth of pirated recordings and merchandise of which Comerica has “significantly reduced the availability”; cite minutes from four different meetings to establish that the heirs were made aware of the plan to move the vault to Los Angeles; list multiple copyrights and trademarks secured by the estate since Prince’s death; and set forth Carter and the Comerica personnel’s qualifications to oversee the estate.
In response, on Tuesday morning Sharon Nelson provided statements to Variety that reads: “Comerica’s desperate response to our Petition to Remove them as temporary Personal Representative failed to address their incompetence and continues a pattern of self-serving excuses to avoid Court orders; they wish to and the heirs and rights to the legacy of our brother Prince. Whether now or soon, their time is up and their service has been harmful. Do not believe what they say because they wish to keep incurring millions and millions of dollars in fees.”
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(AP Photo/File & Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)