James Brown Estate to be Sold, After 15 Years of Infighting

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tags: music, popular culture, James Brown

Since James Brown’s death 15 years ago, a plan by the soul and funk music icon to leave the bulk of his estate to scholarships for needy children has been delayed by torrents of litigation. But the mission of financing those scholarships has taken a major step forward under the terms of a new business deal.

Primary Wave Music, a New York company that specializes in marketing estates and song catalogs, is buying the assets of the Brown estate, including music rights, real estate and the control over Brown’s name and likeness.

Larry Mestel, the founder of Primary Wave — which did a similar deal for half of Whitney Houston’s estate, and owns the largest interest in Prince’s — envisions an array of new projects to honor Brown’s legacy and promote his music to new generations of fans. Those may include a Broadway musical, television shows and the creation of a Graceland-like museum attraction at Brown’s mansion in South Carolina, he said.

“James Brown was one of the greatest musical entertainers of all time, and one of the greatest legends of the music business,” Mr. Mestel said in an interview. “That fits what we do like a glove.”

The price of the deal was not disclosed, but is estimated at about $90 million. The money from the transaction will be used to endow the Brown scholarship trust “in perpetuity,” said Russell L. Bauknight, a public accountant who has served as the estate’s personal representative, or executor, since 2009. He said that once the estate is closed, he will continue to work with Primary Wave as a member of a board handling some of Brown’s assets.

“It’s time to bring in someone of Larry’s expertise to take it to the next level,” Mr. Bauknight said. “We’re looking at this as more of a partnership moving forward.”

The deal includes a provision for Primary Wave to contribute what Mr. Mestel called a “small percentage” of some future deals to the scholarships, which are for underprivileged children in South Carolina, where Brown was born, and Georgia, where he grew up.

Read entire article at New York Times

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