The rights to Jimi Hendrix musical legacy will finally revert to his father,
Al Hendrix, a 76-year old former gardener, twenty-five years after the death
of his famous son. In the past twenty years, the elder Hendrix has been paid
less than $2 million dollars, from the sale of Hendrix albums, and
paraphernalia--a virtual cottage industry that generates over $3 million
dollars a year in worldwide record sales, and earns more than $ 1 million
dollars in clothes, posters, and paraphernalia bearing his name and likeness.
On April 19, 1993, Hendrix filed a suit when he found out that MCA Music
Entertainment was planning to purchase his son's recording and publishing
copyrights from two international companies that had held them these past two
decades. This deal was estimated to be worth in the neighborhood of $40
million -none of which would have gone to the Hendrix family. The deal was
suspended when Al Hendrix wrote a letter to MCA protesting the purchase.
Those named in the suit were Leo Branton, Jr. a civil rights lawyer, whom
Hendrix had accused of selling the rights to his late son's catalog without
his consent. He had hired Branton in 1971, a year after Jimi Hendrix died of
a drug overdose, because the estate was on the brink of bankruptcy and he
needed someone to manage his business affairs. Branton restructured the
assets, settled all the pending litigation and reestablished control over
most of Hendrix's original master tapes. He drew up contracts in 1974 which
were signed by the elder Hendrix, relinquishing all the rights to his sons
"unmastered" tapes for $50,000 to Presentaciones Musicales SA (PMSA), a
Panamanian corporation, and then transferred over all his stock in Bella
Godiva, his son's music publishing company for a mere $50,000, on Branton's
advice. He did not disclose to Hendrix that he also represented PMSA in the
deal, according to Hendrix.
Also named were producer Alan Douglas, who had been supervising the
reissuing of Jimi Hendrix music for over twenty years, including setting up
the Are You Experienced? touring shows, in a deal negotiated by
Branton; Bella Godiva Music Inc.; Presentaciones Musicales SA, a Panamanian
corporation; Bureau Voor Muzeikrechten Elber B.V. based in the Netherlands;
and Interlit, based in the British Virgin Islands.
As the rights revert to Al Hendrix, which could be worth as much as $80
million dollars, he is required to pay Branton and others between $5 million
and $10 million over time to resolve the matter. His other costs are the
repayment of a $5 million dollar interest free loan extended to him by Paul
Allen, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder, to finance the
litigation--something Hendrix couldn't have shouldered on his own. The family
were asked to repay the loan only if they prevailed. Despite that loan, Paul
Allen and the Hendrix family have disagreed over Allen's plans for a Hendrix
museum in Seattle. Once called The Jimi Hendrix Museum, it has now been
renamed The Experience Music Project, and has been broadened to cover music
of the Pacific Northwest.
In a news conference Al Hendrix said he "was elated" to recover the rights to
his son's music, which he says that he listens to regularly.