CHANHASSEN, MN – Three years after Prince’s untimely death at the age of 57, his sister and heir Sharon Nelson says that the six heirs still have no control of the estate. Because her brother died intestate, or without a will, the estate has been mired in legal issues ever since.
A judge recently ruled that dissension and legal challenges initiated by the six siblings who inherited the vast estate, which included cash, land, and the rights to Prince’s potentially lucrative publishing and music are bleeding the estate of money, but Nelson says that Comerica Bank and the entertainment advisor assigned by the bank are the problem.
“The biggest challenge is that we have a bank that we have conflicts with,” Nelson said, while attending the 3rd annual four-day Prince Celebration at his entertainment complex, Paisley Park, in suburban Minneapolis, where he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl in 2016. “They are not managing the money, they are spending it recklessly and frivolously. A bank should not be managing the estate.”
The heirs are currently in court trying to oust the Dallas-based bank which they allege has spent $45 million in “administrative expenses,” according to court documents and multiple reports. A Minnesota judge has ruled that the current agreement should stay in place, but there is another court date scheduled for May, according to Nelson.
Nelson says the lawyers who are being paid to wade through the financial challenges of a large music estate – paying bills and taxes, figuring out where and how Prince’s estate can be monetized are the ones currently making money off the estate, not the heirs, who she says have no say on anything the estate does and are not receiving any money from it.
“Prince had about 5 people working for him [near the end of his life] and now there are 40 probate attorneys,” Nelson says. “I don’t think anyone should take advantage of his hard work. My brother could make a record in 48 hours,” she says.
Nelson, who along with the three oldest heirs – John Rogers Nelson and Norrine Nelson – are being advised by longtime Prince attorney Londell McMillan, says she is taking an active role in what could be an estate ultimately worth a billion dollars if handled correctly.
Contrary to reports, Nelson says that all the siblings, including the younger 3 heirs – Prince’s full sister Tyka Nelson, half-brother Omarr Baker and half-brother Alfred Jackson, now have a united front and have signed paperwork to confirm it. She says any initial squabbles were due to the fact that the siblings had not know each other well prior to Prince’s death.
“I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. We had to come here and get to know one another. We all wasted money getting separate attorneys and we all think differently.”
But now she says they want Comerica Bank, who she says is also spending money traveling from their home base in Dallas to Minneapolis, out, in favor of a bank they prefer who will handle business matters only.
Comerica is the bank that has assigned music industry veteran Troy Carter, who has worked with Will Smith and once managed Lady Gaga, to oversee the entertainment decisions for the estate. Nelson says Carter was fired from managing Gaga [in 2013] and says he’s not well versed in “Prince 101.”
She says he told her he’d never even attended a Prince concert. (In 2018, music manager Scooter Braun settled a suit with Carter over a $10 million dollar loan to Carter, which he alleged had not been repaid. The case was settled last month.) A “new” Prince release “Originals” featuring his original recordings of songs that ended up on other people’s albums is due out on June 9th, curated by Jay Z and Troy Carter.
“We did our due diligence,” says Nelson. “We want him out.”
One of the decisions that Nelson disagreed with was the contents of Prince’s famed vault being transferred to Iron Mountain, a storage facility in California. She says the vault was emptied, literally in the dark of night, and that heirs weren’t told until almost a month later.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said. Nelson says the estate is paying $90,000 a month for storage at Iron Mountain, a billion-dollar storage company that stores, destroys and provides backups for over 220,000 customers, according to their 2016 company report. Nelson has seen the vault in its original state at Paisley Park and thinks reports of the degraded condition of Prince’s recordings were exaggerated.
Nelson readily admits she hadn’t talked to Prince in a few years before his passing but says the two were never estranged, simply living very separate lives. Nelson says if he wanted tickets, she got them along with luxury transport to any shows she wanted to attend.
She does believe that her brother was hurting in the last years of his life and that he likely was using opiates of some kind to manage pain, although she doesn’t believe he was an addict, as he’s been portrayed in media reports after his death. Nelson says he’d lost weight and was in pain but he also ate healthy and did not take recreational drugs.
But does she believe that his death was accidental?
Investigative reports released last year around the anniversary of his death pointed to some questionable actions by several of his associated and employees. Chanhassen police concluded their investigation without anyone being charged, but even they said that the circumstance of his death remain unclear.
Nelson, like others, has her speculations.
“In my heart, I believe something happened that wasn’t good, but don’t know what,” she says. Some answers may come via a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the heirs against a hospital in Moline, Illinois by in 2018. It is the hospital that treated Prince in 2016 when he was taken off a a private plane after becoming unresponsive while returning to Minneapolis from his last “Piano and a Microphone Tour” in Atlanta.
As far as whether or not Prince had a will, as he spent years of his career advocating for artist ownership and empowerment, Nelson laughs.
‘You’d have to know Prince,” she says. “He would have said let them figure it out.”
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