Details start to emerge about the Prince estate valuation

BVWireIssue #232-3
January 26, 2022

federal taxation
intellectual property, expert testimony, intangible assets, estate tax, fair market value (FMV), subsequent events, michael jackson, image, reasonably foreseeable

One of the tricky assets to value in the Prince estate was the rock star’s name and likeness. The estate pegged the value at $3.1 million while the IRS came up with double that amount ($6.2 million). The valuation of a name and likeness is not something the average appraiser can do, so it requires the help of a specialist.

Third-party expert: BVWire has learned that celebrity licensing expert Mark Roesler (CMG Worldwide) worked on the name and likeness valuation on behalf of the Prince estate. The case has settled (see coverage here), so the two valuations will not go head to head in the courtroom. But we do know that Roesler’s valuation approach was similar to what he did for the Michael Jackson estate, and his name and likeness valuation prevailed in that case, which went to trial.

A person’s name and likeness is part of the concept of “right of publicity,” a form of intellectual property that not only covers a person’s name and image, but also his or her signature, voice, and so on. It is an issue that often is overlooked because of a lack of awareness. The concept does not only apply to famous people—the average person has the right of publicity, and it has a value.

Experts in other areas of intellectual property valuation should not assume they can take on a right of publicity engagement and perform a defensible valuation. True, it uses some fundamental valuation techniques, but it requires the judgment and experience of someone who works with the right of publicity regularly. Therefore, in the Prince case, the estate brought in Roesler, who has 40 years of experience with international licensing and rights management for over 1,000 famous individuals in the sports, entertainment, music, and historic fields.

Roesler explained his methodology for the Jackson case during a BVR webinar (recording available), and, since he used the same basic approach in the Prince case, one can learn some interesting insights on this type of valuation. Also, Roesler co-wrote a chapter on the topic in BVR’s Comprehensive Guide to Economic Damages, 6th edition (Chapter 26, “Damages and Right of Publicity Infringements”).

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