By Livia Gershon | Smithsonian Magazine
When James Brown died 15 years ago, he left behind a plan for most of his estate to pay for scholarships for children in need. Now, after years of legal disputes, the iconic soul singer’s dream is coming to fruition with the sale of his assets to music publisher Primary Wave Music for an estimated $90 million, report Ben Sisario and Steve Knopper for the New York Times.
Primary Wave, which specializes in managing estates and song catalogs, bought half of Whitney Houston’s estate back in May 2019, and the largest share of Prince’s this past June.
“James Brown was one of the greatest musical entertainers of all time, and one of the greatest legends of the music business,” Larry Mestel, the company’s founder, tells the Times. “That fits what we do like a glove.”
Money from the deal will endow a scholarship trust for children in South Carolina, where Brown was born, and Georgia, where he grew up, says Russell L. Bauknight, executor of the estate. Bauknight will continue to assist in the estate’s management, serving on a board handling portions of it.
“Estate Planning is not a one-and-done process, it requires constant supervision. It is an evolving area of law. Life changing events as well as changes to the law can have serious repercussions. James Browns’ estate is a perfect example of why estate planning should be analyzed and revisited on a consistent basis. A properly drafted estate plan not only establishes a person’s intent but does so in a timely and prudent matter leaving no ambiguity to be decided by a court. It’s sad to see that almost 17 years later and his estate has yet to be resolved.”
–George Finn, Rose Law Group transactional attorney