Prince estate valued at $156.4m at end of long legal battle

The estate of the late pop singer Prince, including his catalogue of songs, has been valued at $156.4m (£114m), nearly twice an earlier appraisal.

The estate’s administrator, Comerica Bank, agreed on the figure with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the heirs to Prince’s estate. The singer died in 2016 without a will, and his estate will pass to three of his siblings as well as the publishing company Primary Wave, who in August 2021 bought out rights to the Prince catalogue from another three heirs, two of them deceased.

The redistribution of the estate’s value could begin next month. “It has been a long six years,” said L Londell McMillan, lawyer for the three heirs, who have faced a costly legal process to have the estate’s value settled and distributed.

The process came to a head earlier this month when the IRS, the US tax agency, asserted that the estate was worth $163.2m, twice the $82.3m figure previously submitted by Comerica. The higher valuation meant the IRS would claim substantially more tax.

Comerica had sued the IRS in 2020, arguing that there were errors in its valuation. In the wake of the settlement, Comerica argued that is would have prevailed had the case gone to trial, but the heirs had pushed for a settlement to bring the process to a quicker conclusion.

Primary Wave and the remaining heirs will now hope to amass new and ongoing revenue from the estate.

Prince’s brilliant and far-reaching song catalogue spans funk, R&B, new wave and beyond, and contains pop masterpieces such as Purple Rain, When Doves Cry and 1999. The estate holders can earn income from streaming and sales royalties, as well as placements of Prince songs in film, TV and advertising. The potentially lucrative returns from song catalogues like this have spurred a wave of high-value acquisitions by major labels and publishing companies such as Primary Wave and Hipgnosis, including bodies of work by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon.

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