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National
AP
As Prince heirs stew, bankers and lawyers cash in on estate

MINNEAPOLIS — As the second anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, his heirs have yet to collect a dollar of his estimated $200 million estate. But bankers, lawyers and consultants have earned millions from it.

The long saga to settle the estate provides a cautionary tale about dying without a will, as Prince did when he died of an accidental opioid overdose at his suburban Minneapolis studio April 21, 2016, and the heirs can’t quit squabbling. Here’s a look at where things stand:

NO DOUGH YET

Even though it’s been nearly two years since Prince died, the executor of the estate, Comerica Bank and Trust, can’t split the money among Prince’s six surviving siblings until the Internal Revenue Service and executor agree on the estate’s value when Prince died.

It’s not clear when that might happen. The IRS and state of Minnesota are entitled to collect about half, although the estate can stretch out the payments over time.

THE ESTATE’S VALUE

Court filings several months after Prince’s death suggested that it was worth around $200 million before taxes. The actual value remains one of the biggest secrets in the case, hidden in sealed and redacted documents. The actual valuation could have gone up or down since then.

That’s because the various attorneys, accountants and industry experts at that point had not yet finished appraisals and deals for the use of his music, videos and assets including his Paisley Park studio. Attorneys for the heirs did not return calls for this story or declined to comment.

FRICTIONS AND FACTIONS

The six heirs have been bitterly split. Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John R. Nelson form one faction that has battled Comerica and other heirs on several fronts, including Comerica’s decision to move the contents of Prince’s vault of recordings from Paisley Park to Los Angeles.

But the six showed rare unity last week when Tyka Nelson, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson joined the other three in strenuously objecting to an unspecified “entertainment transaction” in the works that they say would be “an embarrassment to Prince’s legacy.” The volume of heavily redacted and sealed court filings and counter-filings suggests it’s big, but the public portions don’t say whether it’s a new music rights deal to replace a failed agreement with Universal Music Group or something else. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Most of the siblings have kept low public profiles. Sharon Nelson has been the most outspoken. She recently released an album of music composed by her father and Prince’s father, the late jazz musician John L. Nelson. She also tweeted fresh criticism of Comerica last week, asking why Prince fans haven’t been offered any new music.

WHO IS GETTING PAID SO FAR?

A small army of lawyers and the taxman. Public filings don’t say how much the estate already has paid the IRS and state of Minnesota, but Comerica and its lawyers already have collected at least $5.9 million in fees and expenses, according to a filing last month.

“There is legitimate concern that at the end of the Estate’s administration there will be little, if anything left to pass on to the Heirs,” attorneys for Sharon, Norrine and John wrote in that filing.

The $5.9 million doesn’t include a pending request for nearly $2.9 million in fees and expenses for Comerica and its lawyers. Nor does it include fees for the heirs’ lawyers and other attorneys, or fees for the estate’s main music adviser, Spotify executive Troy Carter.

Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide has admonished everyone to keep spending under control, writing that the estate “is not an unlimited resource!”

A SETTLEMENT? The agenda for Wednesday’s hearing also includes a Comerica motion to approve some sort of settlement.

Nearly all details have been redacted, but one dispute that appears ripe for a settlement is the estate’s lawsuit against Jay Z’s Roc Nation and the Tidal streaming service over alleged copyright violations.

Whatever the settlement is about, Sharon, Norrine and John oppose it. They say the estate could win more in litigation.


Business
AP
In a close race, 'Rampage' takes No. 1 from 'A Quiet Place'

LOS ANGELES — After a wobbly start, Dwayne Johnson muscled his way to a No. 1 opening for “Rampage” — but just barely. Close on its heels was the word-of-mouth sensation “A Quiet Place” in its second week in theaters, and not too far behind that was the Blumhouse horror “Truth or Dare” in a competitive weekend at the box office.

Warner Bros. said Sunday that “Rampage” earned an estimated $34.5 million in its first weekend in North American theaters, and dominated internationally too with $114.1 million from 61 territories.

Based on the classic arcade game, “Rampage” carried a sizable budget of at least $115 million. Although “Rampage” pulled in mixed reviews (it’s at 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences were more enthusiastic, giving it an A- CinemaScore.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel on Friday. But when I look at our global number of $148.6 million, there’s a lot to be proud of for Dwayne Johnson,” said Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein. “Talk about a real closer, he knows how to bring it home.”

That Friday, of course, was Friday the 13th and audiences had the choice between two wide-release nail-biters to spend their entertainment dollars on — the buzzy thriller “A Quiet Place” that dominated the charts last weekend, and the new horror from the shop behind “Get Out” and “Split,” “Truth or Dare.”

After its stunning debut, John Krasinski’s modestly budgeted “A Quiet Place” fell only 35 percent in weekend two, adding $32.6 million to its domestic total, which is now just shy of $100 million for Paramount Pictures.

“Truth or Dare” also found a sizable audience that was mostly young (60 percent younger than 25) and female (60 percent). The PG-13 rated movie stars “Pretty Little Liars” alum Lucy Hale.

With a budget of just $3.5 million, the film took in a terrific $19.1 million over the weekend — just the latest in a string of successes for the Blumhouse and Universal Pictures partnership.

“They take high quality filmmaking at micro-budgets and just consistently over-deliver,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “Everyone at Universal is just thrilled to be in business with these guys.”

Orr said despite the competitive marketplace, the studio’s marketing found a lane with the younger female audience and played into the Friday the 13th release.

Sliding into fourth place was Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” with $11.2 million in its third weekend, and in fifth was the R-rated comedy “Blockers,” with $10.3 million.

Also, after a limited release, Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated “Isle of Dogs” added 1,385 locations and took the No. 7 spot with $5 million. Chloe Zhao’s well-reviewed indie “The Rider” also debuted this weekend in three theaters with $45,268.

While the success of a horror, especially a micro-budget one, isn’t a surprise for the industry, big budget films like “Rampage” continue to face a complex marketplace. For box office analysts like comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian, “Rampage’s” performance fits into the post-”Black Panther” narrative for most would-be blockbusters that have followed the Marvel and Disney phenomenon.

“’Rampage’ joins a long list of popcorn movies that have opened in the wake of ‘Black Panther’ to rely heavily on their international box office revenues,” Dergarabedian said, citing “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Tomb Raider,” ‘’Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Ready Player One” as recent examples.

Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther” added $5.3 million in its ninth weekend in theaters, bringing its domestic total to $673.8 million.

It’s another down weekend for the industry, too. The same weekend last year saw the massive $98.8 million opening for “The Fate of the Furious.” ComScore reports that the year to date box office is down just over 2 percent. But the tide could be turning soon.

“We’re just in this lull waiting for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ that is going to blow the doors off of the box office in a little less than two weeks,” Dergarabedian said.


Obituaries
Thomas A. Draz

EAU CLAIRE — Thomas A. Draz, 58, died unexpectedly Friday, April 13, 2018, at his home. Funeral services will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at Unity Christ Center, Eau Claire. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. at the church. Chippewa Valley Cremation Services in Altoona is serving the family.


Obituaries
Jean M. Sobotta

BLOOMER — Jean M. Sobotta, 82, of Bloomer died Friday, April 13, 2018, at Dove Healthcare in Bloomer. Memorial visitation will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at Schriver-Thompson Funeral Home & Chippewa Valley Cremation Services in Bloomer. Private burial will be in the spring.


Obituaries
Dorothy M. Boos

Dorothy M. Boos, 89, of Chippewa Falls died Saturday, April 14, 2018, at her residence under the care of St. Joseph’s Hospice. Funeral arrangements are pending with Horan Funeral Home in Chippewa Falls.


Local
top story
Cornell School District honored by state

A local school district is among 135 in the state being honored by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction for its work in educating students while serving a high number of economically disadvantaged families.

Cornell School District was the only district in the state to be recognized as both a Title I High Achieving School and a Beating the Odds School. The elementary school was honored with both recognitions, while the middle school was honored with the Beating the Odds distinction.

In an email statement, Superintendent Paul Schley said this is the seventh year in a row the elementary school was given this honor and the second consecutive year the middle school has been honored. The elementary school was also one of 24 schools in the state to get the High Achieving honor, and both schools were two of 87 schools to be honored with Beating the Odds.

Schley credited the Investigation Math series and Good Habits Great Readers program — initiated into the curriculum a few years ago — as helping the school achieve these designations.

It has also positive student and teacher relationships that have helped these schools reach high achievement, Schley said.

“However, when considering high student achievement, teacher relationships with students and teacher expectations of students has a very high correlation to success,” Schley said. “Of course, the students are the ones that really earn these awards by their hard work and desire to learn.”

The Title I awards from the DPI honor schools that receive funding from Title I, which is awarded to schools serving families with economic disadvantages.

High achieving schools have students who have less than three points between student groups, and schools that “beat the odds” are in the top 25 for poverty schools and have above-average student achievement comnpared to schools of similar demographics.

Cornell School District and the other districts honored will be recognized at ceremony at the Wisconsin State Capitol May 21.


Chris O'Meara, Associated Press 

Prince performs Feb. 4, 2007, during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game in Miami. The saga to settle Prince's estate provides a cautionary tale about what can happen when someone dies without leaving a will, as he did when he died of an accidental opioid overdose at his Paisley Park studio April 21, 2016.


Warner Bros. via AP 

This image released by Warner Bros. shows Dwayne Johnson in a scene from "Rampage." Johnson’s arcade game-inspired “Rampage” crept past last week’s top film “A Quiet Place” to take the No. 1 spot on the box office charts.