The good news is that the Prince Estate announced last week that the classic movie Purple Rain will become a stage musical as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The bad news is that the musical may be stopped in its tracks as Prince’s heirs are back in court.
Nearly eight years after the Minneapolis maestro’s death after an accidental drug overdose, his heirs are in court again. Prince Legacy LLC, run by Prince’s former lawyer Londell McMillan and his partner Charles Spicer, filed a lawsuit in Delaware alleging that the musician’s heirs and family members are trying to force them out of the Estate in violation of a previous agreement.
They say changes at this point would undermine their work to preserve and expand Prince’s legacy. In the complaint, McMillan and Spicer allege that “the Individual defendants lack any business and management experience, have no experience in the music and entertainment industries, and have no experience negotiating and managing high-level deals in the entertainment industry,” adding, “their interference and intervention will make it impossible to carry on the business of Prince Legacy and will cause irreparable harm to the Company’s good will, existing relationships, and revenue streams.”
The lawsuit names Norrine and Sharon Nelson, Prince’s half-sisters and his niece and nephew, Breanna and Allen Nelson, who are the children of Prince’s brother, John L. Nelson. Both Norinne and Sharon are in their 80s and in Prince’s lifetime had marginal relationships with the late artist.
Six of Prince’s living siblings were named as heirs and three, including his sister Tyka Nelson, with whom he shares both parents, sold their interest in the estate to music management company Primary Wave. The company retains 50% of the Estate and are not part of the lawsuit. Billboard was the first to report the story.
Sharon and Norrine are among the three heirs who partnered with McMillan and Spicer to advise them on the Estate. The sisters have done little to advance any project thus far. The special deluxe edition box sets, including last year’s for Prince’s 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls, were in the works when the estate was being run by Comerica Bank. Litigation between the heirs dragged out the Estate settlement for more than six years. Though Prince died in 2016 at the age of 57, the $156 million estate was just settled in 2022.
Breanna and Allen Nelson have not previously publicly shown much interest in running or otherwise being involved in the Estate.
McMillan and Spicer say that the siblings tried to sell the shares they own through their father to Primary Wave in breach of the existing agreement. They also allege that Breanna tried to have her son hired as a marketing intern at Paisley Park without informing other heirs and that Sharon wanted to replace Paisley Park staff with her own choices and was upset when lavish Paisley Park events she wanted to do were vetoed.
None of the heirs have commented to the media on the lawsuit.
As for the musical and other projects, sources told Variety the lawsuit should not preclude their release, although it’s hard to be sure of that with litigation pending.
Purple Rain the musical was agreed upon by McMillan and Spicer, representing Prince Legacy LLC and Primary Wave, which owns Prince Oat Holdings. In a joint announcement, they said two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Branden Jacobs-Jenkins would write the book for the musical and that Tony-nominated director Lileana Blain-Cruz was also joining the production. Jacobs-Jenkins talked about his contemporary approach to adapting the movie in a recent New Yorker article.
There is no word yet on casting or when Purple Rain may debut.
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