Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit in battle over pop icon Prince's estate

A Delaware judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former business advisers to the late pop music icon Prince against two of his siblings and other heirs in a dispute over his estate.

The judge on Friday also agreed with plaintiffs L. Londell McMillan and Charles Spicer Jr. that an agreement purporting to replacing them as managers of a limited liability company established by three siblings was invalid.

Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016. He had no will, and his six siblings inherited equal interests in the estate.

Three of them assigned their combined 50% interest to Prince Legacy LLC. They also granted McMillan and Spicer each a 10% interest in Prince Legacy, along with broad and exclusive management authority.

One sister, Sharon Nelson, later regretted the decision and led an effort to remove McMillan and Spicer as managing members by amending the LLC agreement.

Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that the terms of the initial LLC agreement are unambiguous and that they prohibit the defendants’ attempts to amend it. She said the agreement remains in effect and McMillan and Spicer remain as managing members.

“As a matter of contract law, this is the only reasonable interpretation,” the judge wrote.

McCormick also ruled that the plaintiffs can pursue a claim that the defendants breached the LLC agreement by acting without authorization to amend it and remove McMillan and Spicer.

The lawsuit stems from disagreements involving Tyka Nelson, Prince’s sister, and five half-siblings: Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John R. Nelson, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson.

Tyka, Omarr and Alfred, the three youngest, sold their stake to a music publishing company called Primary Wave Music, LLC, which later assigned its interests to an affiliate, Prince OAT Holdings LLC. Alfred has since died.

The older siblings, Sharon, Norrine and John, assigned 20% of their collective interests to McMillan and Spicer before John died in 2021. His interests passed to a trust overseen by Breanna Nelson, Allen Nelson and Johnny Nicholas Nelson Torres as co-trustees. Breanna and Allen are named as defendants in the lawsuit along with Sharon and Norrine, while Nelson Torres has sided with the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges among other things that Sharon improperly tried to insert herself into management decisions and once demanded that the entire staff of the Paisley Park Museum in Minnesota be replaced. She also accused McMillan and Spicer of fraud and tried to sell her interests in Prince Legacy without the required consent of the other members.

The lawsuit is part of a long and convoluted legal battle involving both the size and the beneficiaries of Prince’s estate. In 2022, nearly six years after his death, the Internal Revenue Service and the administrator of the estate agreed to end a court battle and value the estate at roughly $156 million.

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