Twenty years ago,
recoiled at the idea of technology being used to summon a posthumous performance.
So when video footage of the pop star, who died in 2016, was projected onto a massive screen during Justin
Super Bowl performance on Sunday, many fans were shocked.
“That’s the most demonic thing imaginable,” Prince said in a 1998 interview with Guitar World magazine. “That’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.”
Since he didn’t leave a will, that control is now in the hands of a regional bank.
In the nearly two years since Prince’s prescription drug-overdose death at the age of 57, lawyers, advisers and heirs have haggled over his estate, his unreleased recordings and his legacy. At times it hasn’t been clear who is in charge of decisions over the image and likeness of the reclusive artist, who despised the idea of his music being exploited by entertainment executives and sought to manage his own affairs when he could.
Last May, a Minnesota judge ruled that Prince’s sister,
and five half-siblings are heirs to his estate. But until an agreement is reached with the IRS on how much they owe in taxes and how they will be paid, the estate remains in the hands of
which was appointed by Carver County District Judge
as fiduciary in January 2017.
Those heirs aren’t authorized to make decisions regarding the estate but are consulted by Comerica, according to a person familiar with the estate’s affairs. The Dallas-based bank appointed
a former manager for
and now a senior executive at Spotify AB, as entertainment adviser to the estate.
“The bottom line is it’s Comerica making the final decisions,” the person said.
Comerica didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Banks are often enlisted as fiduciaries even when there is a will, to handle estate taxes and other financial matters. But that leaves a corporate entity, at least temporarily, as the arbiter of one of pop culture’s most acclaimed legacies.
The estate said the footage that appeared Sunday was licensed from a Prince performance in Syracuse, N.Y., and “Purple Rain,” his 1984 movie.
whose production company Fireplay handled the visuals for the halftime performance, said he and Mr. Timberlake worked hard to create a tribute to Prince. “Ultimately, Justin decided that the only person who could do Prince justice is Prince,” Mr. Whitehouse said in a press release Sunday.
On “The Tonight Show Starring
” Monday, Mr. Timberlake called Prince “my favorite musician of all time” and said the performance was intended as “the ultimate homage.” Mr. Timberlake’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, Prince fans erupted over rumors that a hologram of the pop star would appear during the halftime show. His former percussionist
on Saturday tweeted: “Prince told me don’t ever let anyone do a hologram of me. Not cool if this happens!”
She wrote later that day that she spoke with Mr. Timberlake and that there would be no hologram, then apologized for “any role I may have played in causing a distraction during one of our most cherished sports event, as well as any ill-will toward the efforts of organizations and artist who gave their best in representing their talents.” Her spokeswoman declined to comment further.
Ms. Nelson, Prince’s sister, told entertainment site TMZ on Monday she enjoyed the performance and that it wasn’t possible for anyone to know what Prince would have wanted. She said she and the rest of the family knew what Mr. Timberlake was planning to sing but didn’t know about the video component.
It isn’t clear what will happen when the estate taxes are settled and decision-making turns to Prince’s six heirs, who haven’t agreed on issues ranging from music-licensing deals to a tribute concert. There is still time for other heirs to come forward and be granted legitimacy by the judge, though the person close to the situation says there are currently no likely contenders. If any heirs were found, the six already certified will remain so.
Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com