A year after the legal battle over Prince’s estate was finally settled, the music legend’s heirs are now suddenly back in court again, battling amongst each other over allegations that certain family members are trying to wrongfully seize control.
The lawsuit, made public Wednesday (Jan. 10) in Delaware court, amounts to a civil war among the members of Prince Legacy LLC, one of the two holding companies created to run the star’s $156 million estate. (Primary Wave, which owns the other half of the estate, is not involved in the dispute.)
The case was filed by L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer, two longtime Prince friends who serve as managers for Prince Legacy, over allegations that four of Prince’s family members have been improperly trying to force them out of the company. They say such a move not only violates the group’s operating agreement but would cause massive damage to efforts “to preserve and protect Prince’s legacy.”
“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,” McMillan and Spicer wrote in the complaint, obtained by Billboard. “They have a documented history of infighting. Based on the amount and complexity of the work that Prince Legacy is involved with, they are simply not capable of stepping in and managing its business.”
The lawsuit targets Prince’s half-sisters Sharon Nelson and Norrine Nelson, as well as his niece Breanna Nelson and his nephew Allen Nelson. None of the defendants could immediately be located for comment, and attorneys who have previously represented them did not return requests for comment.
If Sharon and Norrine “install themselves” and oust McMillan and Spicer, the lawsuit claims that “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.”
Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016 at the age of 57. Though legendary for his tight control over his intellectual property rights, the iconic artist died without a will, sparking a complex process known as probate in which courts decide how to disperse a deceased person’s estate. Six of Prince’s half-siblings were named as heirs, three of whom later sold their shares to Primary Wave.
The court case finally wrapped up in August 2022 when the estate was formally divided evenly between Prince Legacy (owned by McMillan, Spicer and the remaining heirs) and a similar company called Prince Oat Holdings LLC, which is owned entirely by Primary Wave. At the time, both sides vowed to work together to bring Prince’s music and legacy to a new generation of music fans.
But according to Wednesday’s lawsuit, tensions quickly rose at Prince Legacy behind closed doors. McMillan and Spicer, installed as managing members of the company, claim that Sharon became “disgruntled” because they refused to comply with her “unreasonable demands” about the operations of the estate, and was “offended” her actions were subject to approval from the rest of the company.
“For example, Sharon sought (unsuccessfully) to replace the entire staff of Paisley Park with individuals of her choosing and take charge of Paisley Park,” the lawsuit claims, referring to Prince’s famed Minnesota mansion. “Her demands for lavish events held at Paisley Park at the expense of Paisley Park were likewise rejected.”
Breanna, meanwhile, allegedly became displeased when similar efforts were rejected. Among other demands, the lawsuit claims she to tried to “appoint her son as an intern of Paisley Park in the marketing department” and make other key hires without consulting the company.
Rather than raise their grievances in an appropriate manner, McMillan and Spicer claim that Sharon and Breanna instead “harassed and disparaged” the two managers while demanding that they resign. They say Sharon threatened to publish “false allegations” and sue them unless they would step down.
Perhaps most notably, the lawsuit claims that both women then attempted to unilaterally sell their shares in the holding company to Primary Wave — a contentious subject that evokes the years of messy litigation and dealing that it took to finally resolve the estate case in the current 50-50 structure.
In the lawsuit, McMillan and Spicer say such a sale could not be made without unanimous consent of the members of Prince Legacy. Faced with that limitation, the lawsuit claims that the heirs have been trying to change the company’s bylaws — both to remove McMillan and Spicer as managers and to lower the threshold required to let a member sell their shares to a third party.
The lawsuit is seeking an immediate injunction, blocking any such changes from taking place on the grounds that it would leave the company “irreparably harmed” if allowed to proceed.
“The Individual Defendants’ conduct threatens the myriad business undertakings of Prince Legacy, currently being managed by McMillan and Spicer and threatens the Company’s relationship with third parties and its leverage in negotiating those deals,” the lawsuit says.