Primary Wave Faces Legal Challenge Following $90 Million James Brown Catalog Deal

James Brown Primary Wave lawsuit

Photo Credit: Heinrich Klaffs / CC by 2.0

Primary Wave and the James Brown Estate are facing a new lawsuit over the $90 million sale of Brown’s catalog and likeness last year.

The deal was announced in December 2021 and saw Primary Wave attain master royalty income, name/likeness rights, and a portion of his publishing rights. But a new lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court on November 15 says the deal is in breach of a contract James Brown signed back in 1999 with David Pullman’s Pullman Group.

“This action arises out The Pullman Group’s contractual agreement dated February 24, 1999, with the artist and songwriter James Brown and James Brown Enterprises, Inc. (JBE) and its successors and/or assigns. The exclusive engagement letter provided The Pullman Group with the exclusive rights to refinance or sell the assets of James Brown and JBE, including valuable rights derived from music copyrights, royalties, and other music-related assets related to a large number of musical compositions and songs created and/or performed by James Brown,” the lawsuit reads.

“Pursuant to the exclusive engagement letter, the Pullman Group securitized Brown’s assets as part of a Pullman Bond offering,” the suit continues. “In return for giving up the rights to receive income from those assets during the recoupment period of the Pullman Bonds, Brown received an upfront payment of $26 million. As part of the compensation for The Pullman Group’s services, the Exclusive Engagement Letter provided The Pullman Group with the exclusive rights, following recoupment of the Pullman Bonds, to arrange any future refinancing or asset sale of Brown’s assets until at least 2059.”

The Pullman Group learned about the Primary Wave deal on December 13, 2021, saying the estate “secretly and behind the Pullman Group’s back” sold Brown’s assets to Primary Wave Music Publishing for $90 million. The suit alleges that the Brown defendants prevented Pullman Group’s involvement in the deal with Primary Wave and used Shot Tower Capital to arrange the transaction.

It also alleges that both Primary Wave and Shot Tower Capital should have known about the exclusive rights of Pullman Group under the engagement letter. The Pullman Group filed and recorded the engagement letter with the United States Copyright Office.

It is seeking damages of no less than 12.5% of the value of the Primary Wave Transaction against the Brown Defendants, as well as liquidated damages of $250,000 and contractual costs, legal fees, and interest from the date of Defendant’s breach–in addition to compensatory and punitive damages against Primary Wave and Shot Tower Capital.