James Brown's $100 million music empire is subject of Newberry FOIA lawsuit
A complaint filed in Newberry County on Wednesday asks South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson to release documents related to the value of James Brown's international music empire, widely reported to be worth about $100 million.Read more
#2 Oct 12, 2011
Two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed in Newberry County may prove pivotal in answering the question: will entertainment icon James Brown be denied his last wish?
According to Albert “Buddy” Dallas, one of Brown’s original trustees, Brown spent over $20,000 and almost 20 years to make sure his estate plan was exactly as he wanted it.
In a telephone interview, Dallas said he had worked with Brown over a 24-year period, and throughout that time, Brown consistently voiced his concern for children getting an education.
“I was with James Brown in 1987 at the Scottish Rites Hospital in Atlanta when he announced publicly that he would be leaving his estate to educate needy and underprivileged children,” Dallas said.
Brown had only an 8th grade education, and he felt education was the needy child’s only way out. Brown promoted education at every opportunity, even in his music, Dallas said.
Brown’s song,“Don’t Be a Dropout,” repeats the refrain,“without education, you might as well be dead.”
In November 2007, the Aiken Court appointed Adele Pope of Newberry and Aiken attorney Robert Buchanan to replace them.
In August of 2008, AG Henry McMaster entered into a settlement agreement that called for placing Brown’s assets in a deceptively-named “James Brown Legacy” Trust--deceptively named, in that the “Legacy” Trust was never a part of Brown’s estate plan. Under the agreement, more than half of the Legacy Trust assets would then be given to some of those who had contested the will.
McMaster named Columbia CPA Russell Bauknight the sole trustee of Brown’s assets. Bauknight was appointed by the AG and serves at the AG’s pleasure, giving the AG full control of the Legacy Trust.
McMaster asked that Pope and Buchanan sign a statement not to criticize him or the agreement. In a previously filed affidavit, attorney Pope asserts she has a duty to warn her clients with foundations that in South Carolina, the AG may attempt to rewrite their estate plans.
Buchanan and Pope appealed McMaster’s settlement agreement in the summer of 2009.
They are now being sued. In the lawsuit, Columbia attorney Ken Wingate serves as outside counsel for the State, current trustee Bauknight, and 10 private plaintiffs – including some of Brown’s claimed heirs.
The lawsuit alleges Pope and Buchanan caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to Brown’s music empire during their tenure as trustees, which ended in early 2009.
Despite Wingate’s allegation, Bauknight has filed documents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), claiming that at Brown’s death in 2006, his music empire was worth only $4.7 million.
Pope and Buchanan valued the assets at $100 million, less a $15 million debt.
The figure of $100 million has been widely reported in national publications such as Forbes and the Rolling Stone, and all previous trustees have concurred in the higher valuation.
As early as 1999, Brown borrowed $26 million, using his music assets as collateral. In announcing the bond deal, Wall Street financier David Pullman stated in a press release:“James Brown has created over $100 million in entertainment assets which continue to generate royalties…”
Between 1999 and 2006, Brown earned about $50 million in royalties and fees for performances, and in a 2007 prospectus, some of Brown’s children estimated the value of his music empire as high as $200 million.
In 2010 alone, Brown’s royalties were reported at $5.4 million.
AG Alan Wilson has not released the documents requested by Pope in the Newberry FOIA lawsuits.
For more, see Facebook Page James Brown "I Feel Good Trust" (FOIA Concerns).
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#8 Oct 29, 2011
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#9 Oct 31, 2011
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#12 Nov 13, 2011
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Since: Sep 10
#13 Nov 14, 2011
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#19 Nov 29, 2011
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#21 Dec 20, 2011
In a July 15 letter, Columbia attorney David Black of the mega-firm Nexsen/Pruet issued a threat to Newberry resident Adele Pope. If she continued to file requests for documents and information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), he would file an action to have her sanctioned.
On Friday afternoon, Black followed up on that threat through one of his clients, the current trustee of the James Brown trust, Columbia C.P.A. Russell Bauknight.
Mark Gende of the large Columbia law firm Sweeny, Wingate and Barrow filed the motion in the Newberry County Courthouse asking for sanctions against Pope and “other relief the Court deems just and reasonable.”
In this action, Gende is representing Bauknight, as well as other private parties he requested be added as defendants in Pope’s FOIA lawsuit against South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson which seeks the release of the contingency fee contract between former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the Wingate firm.
Under the contract, the State of South Carolina, Bauknight and 13 disinherited, claimed relatives of James Brown are suing Pope and Aiken attorney Robert Buchanan, asserting they caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to Brown’s assets while serving as trustees from November 2007 to May 2009.
Ironically, the attorney general’s office has since agreed to filings by Bauknight to the Internal Revenue Service that the entire Brown music empire was worth a mere $4.7 million at his death in 2006 even though it was bringing in about $4-5 million in royalties every year.
The legal Goliaths of Nexsen/Pruet and Sweeny, Wingate and Barrow filed the motion for sanctions in their continuing effort to block the release of the contingency fee contract under which McMaster engaged the Wingate law firm to sue Pope and Buchanan for their “vigorous” defense of James Brown’s estate plan. As part of that defense, Pope and Buchanan appealed to the South Carplina Supreme Court a settlement deal cut by McMaster that essentially dismantles Brown’s estate plan. The McMaster deal gives away more than half of what Brown intended to be used for the education of poor children to claimed relatives that Brown intentionally disinherited....
Two weeks ago, Forlando Brown fired his entire legal team and will have new attorneys representing him at a Dec. 15 status conference before U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman of Kentucky. The conference relates to a 2008 lawsuit filed by Forlando Brown against Pope and Buchanan that asserts they were illegally appointed and would not defend his grandfather’s estate plan.
Forlando Brown reiterated that no one had discussed the motion for sanctions with his father.
“My dad didn’t know and I didn’t know until I read your story,” he said in the phone interview.
With the filing of the motion on Friday afternoon, the Goliath law firms have made good on the threat of July 15. They are asking for sanctions and penalties against a private citizen for exercising her rights under the FOIA.
The longer Wilson allows the Goliaths to pound David, the more it appears he is hiding something. How big and how bad, or how small and innocuous, no one will know — until the document is released.
The Newberry Observer - AUDIO: Goliaths roar in Brown FOIA lawsuit
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