It's funny the way most people love the dead. Once you are dead, you are made for life. Jimi Hendrix
While researching parallels between Prince and Jimi Hendrix, I became aware that both men, at the time of their death had contracts with Warner Brothers.
"Michael signed an insurance policy on Jimi that the record company took out, and Jimi was aware of this. But that's standard. Frank Sinatra was insured by Reprise for millions of dollars. That's how business is done. Record companies take out insurance policies on major artists all the time. But it was nothing ruthless or dastardly on Michael Jeffrey's part. This is Tappy rewriting history." Bob Levine, Hendrix's US manager. Source
Hendrix signed a contract with Yamenta, a Warner Brothers holding company which had been set up by his manager Michael Jeffrey amongst others, MGM provided the initial funding to set it up. As we will see, the Hendrix heirs are still trying to untangle the complexities of the Yameta contract.
Yameta served another function as well – as the production company (ostensibly Jeffrey's) that originally was contracted by Warner Bros, to provide Hendrix's records. Even after that recording contract was renegotiated and Warners began dealing directly with Hendrix, all royalty checks – as well as some European performance fees – were sent to Hendrix care of Yameta's Bahamian address. Source
"Hendrix's management deal was through a company Jeffrey had cofounded called Yameta. Based in the Bahamas, Yameta was a confusing maze of holding companies handled by frontmen, money-juggling bankers, political power brokers and other slippery sorts. Under his arrangement with Yameta, Hendrix surrendered a whopping forty percent of his gross income to the offshore company." Source
At this time negotiations were being held directly with Mo Ostin the then President of Warner Brothers. Source. Ostin was also responsible for signing Prince in 1977.
Branton managed to acquire ownership and control of all Hendrix's material, images, video footage etc. He set up a complex myriad of companies, many of them off-shore to manage Hendrix's estate.
It is thanks to the hard work of Leo Branton the the estate was preserved.
Alan Douglas helped Branton run the Hendrix estate, Microsoft wanted to buy the estate, they first set about demonizing Branton and Douglas, they then paid them millions to relinquish their contracts with Al Hendrix.
Al's modest needs were to be taken care of for the rest of his life.
legal battles between 1992-1995 seen control of the estate handed back to Al, at this point I am not sure exactly what role Microsoft have in the running of the estate now, if I find out I will elaborate.
In 1995 The company "Experience Hendrix" was formed and they now claim sole ownership of all Hendrix material. I am not sure if that is strictly true.
Al Hendrix died in 2002, he willed control of the Hendrix estate to Janie and her cousin Robert Hendrix, Robert died in 2012.
Jimi's brother Leon did not inherit any of the estate, bar a gold record.
If you try to purchase a Hendrix album on iTunes today , the material is owned by Experience Hendrix, but Licensed to Sony. In 1973 Warner Brothers released a Jimi Hendrix film, the film has since been digitally remastered, and WB have sole ownership of it.
During the period that Branton had control of the Hendrix estate WB licensed Hendrix material from one of his subsidiary companies.
"Initially, Branton began making some strategic moves for the Hendrix estate, selling off Jimi's stake in New York's Electric Lady recording studios and sorting out a stack of lawsuits.
He decided to avoid digging into the Yameta mess and, armed mostly with righteous indignation, forged ahead with other plans. After Branton wrested back all of the estate's assets, its holdings included the remainder of the Warner Bros. recording contract, music-publishing copyrights and rights to all unmastered tapes.
Packaging these elements together, Branton brokered their sale to Presentaciones Musicales S.A., a Panamanian corporation originally founded as a holding company for his late client Nat Cole and jazz producer Norman Granz." Source Rolling Stone
In 2004 Purple Haze records released a video of Jimi Hendrix in concert in Stockholm, Experience Hendrix tried to claim ownership, Purple Haze claims they acquired the licence to publish from John A Hillman. Hillman was a founder and controller of Yameta. Purple Haze claim that Hendrix's contract with Yameta were valid and binding at the time of his death, and when he died the rights to his work was transferred to Hillman, who still retains control.
When the Hendrix family took control of Hendrix's estate from Branton in 1995, it was reported that Branton had acquired all rights to Hendrix material, it would seem that this was not the case, according to this report, Purple Haze can show all legal documents concerning the transfer of Hendrix's contracted material with Yameta to Hillman, and the subsequent licence from Hillman. When this article was published in 2004, Experience Hendrix were unable to show any legal documentation to prove their claim of ownership of the concert footage.
Purple Haze Records claim they own the rights to the Hendrix Stockholm concert and have released a CD of the show. "On 1st December 1966, James Marshall Hendrix, known as Jimi Hendrix, signed a contract with Yameta Co Ltd" Lawrence from Purple Haze Records tells Undercover News. "This contract was for all activities including performance, recording, writing, production and all media within the entertainment business. In 1975, after Hendrix died, the rights that belonged to Yameta Co Ltd were transferred to John A Hillman, who had set up Yameta and ran the company throughout. The license given to Purple Haze Records Ltd is directly from John A Hillman, formerly (c) (p) Yameta Co Ltd, the rightful owner of all Hendrix material".
Purple Haze claim they went out of their way to clear the issue before the release of the album. "We have invited Reed Wasson (the Attorney for Experience Hendrix LLC) and Eversheds (UK Solicitors for Experience Hendrix LLC) to show proof of title for the Jimi Hendrix rights from 1st December 1966, when Jimi Hendrix signed a contract of employment with Yameta Co Ltd. Experience Hendrix LLC has refused to show any proof of title for the Jimi Hendrix rights. Reed Wasson has refused to show any proof of title for the Jimi Hendrix rights. Eversheds has refused to show any proof of title for the Jimi Hendrix rights. Purple Haze Records Ltd has invited the above parties 10 times to show proof of title. They have refused" Purple Haze claim.
The Hendrix Stockholm Concert was released last month in the UK. Source
The question remained: who owned Yameta? If Jeffrey and the members of the Experience were employees, who were the employers? John Hillman in London, of course, and possibly Sir Guy Henderson and Ralph Seligman in Nassau, all members of the Yameta board. But who did they answer to? Some say Yameta was owned by Caicos Trust Company, Ltd., still another tax haven, named for one of the smaller Bahama Islands. And what was Caicos? No one was talking. Source Rolling Stone 1976
Despite the 1995 claims that the Hendrix family had regained full control of all things Hendrix, it would seem that this was not true, and Experience Hendrix is set for years of legal battles regarding ownership of Hendrix music, images footage etc. Source
This report also details:
Last November, (1991) the enduring commercial legacy of Jimi Hendrix was apparent when the late guitar god finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"What I really want to know," said Leon, "is why my father was the sole beneficiary to Jimi's estate and he's getting a mere pittance?"