After 15 years of infighting and litigation between family heirs and estate administrators, the estate of James Brown has been sold to Primary Wave Music.
The deal, which has been in the works for four years and estimated in the $90 million range, comprises assets of the Brown estate including music rights, real estate and control over Brown’s name and likeness. It represents a significant step in realizing the late Godfather of Soul’s desire to leave the majority of his estate to funding scholarships for needy children. Primary Wave will continue a partnership with the estate that will include projects related to The James Brown 2000 Trust, established in 2000 by Brown for charitable and educational purposes.
One of the first 10 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown was a music pioneer who during a 50-year career that gave the world hits including Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You (I Feel Good), It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World and Living in America. Few musicians were as influential in popular music or put on a more exhilarating stage show than Brown, who through the gospel-impassioned fury of his vocals and the complex polyrhythms of his beats transformed R&B into soul music, and soul into funk.
Brown died on December 25, 2006 of heart failure at age 73. He had outlined his desire that a scholarship trust be formed to aid children in South Carolina, where he was born, and Georgia, where he grew up. But its realization has been hamstrung for years amid contentious discord that’s encompassed numerous lawsuits in both state and federal courts.
Primary Wave executed a similar deal for half of Whitney Houston’s estate and is the owner of largest interest in Prince estate. The company is analyzing a swath of new avenues through which to promote Brown’s legacy and music, including a potential Broadway musical, television shows and the creation of a museum attraction at Brown’s mansion in South Carolina.
“I am awed that Primary Wave has been chosen by the estate of James Brown to partner with the Godfather of Soul,” said Larry Mestel, CEO & founder of Primary Wave Music. “We are thrilled to help continue the expansion of his influence and further his legacy through both his music and The James Brown 2000 Trust.”
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“The James Brown Estate and related Trust are very proud and excited to work with Larry Mestel and Primary Wave,” said Russell Bauknight, Fiduciary for the James Brown Estate and Trust. “We believe that our choice of professionals to take the James Brown Legacy to the next level is going to prove to be one of the most successful events in Mr. Browns long history in show business.”
Brown’s career began in the mid-‘50s as lead singer of the Famous Flames. He quickly gained recognition for being an energetic and powerful live performer, and in the ‘60s released “Live at the Apollo,” which shot him to superstardom. The album was ranked at 25 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Times, was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
He recorded 17 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts, he holds the record for most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and amassed an incredible 98 songs on the Billboard Top 40 R&B singles chart. Aside from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown has been honored by music institutions including the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2003, and the Kennedy Center Honors.