Rohan Marley Says Michael Jackson Once Offered To Buy Bob Marley’s Catalog


Rohan, a former linebacker, recalled Michael’s offer after he told the podcast that he started pursuing football in order to obtain a scholarship so that he could attend college.  This disclosure spawned interest as one of the hosts said that he found it strange that a son of the Reggae legend would be hunting a scholarship when his father was so wealthy.

“It’s not as easy as you think, because when we were children, you know when my father passed away… he never wrote a will…, so the government in Jamaica, they wanted to sell all his rights, so it was my sister Cedella and Mama Rita – Cedella (was) of age and she was the one to fight for it…,” Rohan said.

“We as the children getting ready to go to school, we always had no money, everything was frozen, my dad – $2 million was his estate at the time.  So it was frozen, lawyer fees, this that…All we had was our father’s rights, his likeness and his music and we did not sell that.  And at no time were we gonna sell that…”

“People offered us – $20 million dollars,” he added, alluding to the fact that Michael Jackson wasn’t the only interested foreign investor.

“Chris Blackwell, the guy everybody don’t like, he loaned us the money,” Rohan explained.

Washington Post article published in August 1991, provides a historical reference on the occurrences highlighted by Rohan in his interview with the podcast.

It noted that in connection with Island Records’ Chris Blackwell, Rita and six adult Marley children had been attempting to reclaim his “legacy before it is lost completely to legal fees or auctioned to foreign investors”.

The article noted that Bob’s heirs were “offering to buy the estate for $15.2 million” as they wanted to “ensure that the ‘pearl’ does not pass to the Japanese-owned MCA, which was bidding slightly more, or to other outsiders like Barbados-based musician Eddy Grant who had also put in a bid, but later withdrew.

“We were able to buy our father’s rights because when they sold it they gave the children first rights of refusal…  So we had the money at the time.  We had (to raise the) money at the time to buy the publishing rights, name and likeness, cause they were selling it…,” Rohan said in his interview.

“It’s like this man worked so hard, his whole life to separate himself – to find his own independence.  We could never be his children to give that back to (expletive deleted) people.   So at that time, we would never put our father’s name and likeness or rights in anybody’s hands, so that’s what it was about then… That’s why today it’s us”, he said pointing out that Tuff Gong studios was the catalyst used by his father to make himself independent as an artist.

Rohan hailed his elder sister Cedella throughout the interview, pointing out that she was the engine behind everything coming out in favor of Bob’s heirs.  He also said the biggest offer they got for the estate at the time, was US$25 million, which was staunchly refused by Cedella. “My sister was like: ‘if it’s worth $20 million to you, it’s worth much more to us,” he explained.

In a follow-up interview with Bob’s eldest son, Ziggy Marley, World Music Views reported that “it has not even crossed his [Ziggy’s] mind to sell his own extensive musical catalog much less his father’s musical rights”.

“No sah, it’s not even a thing weh cross me mind, no man me a leave that for my children dem, maybe my grandchildren them will sell it,” Ziggy had told the publication, before adding: “As me say is a bigger picture a gwan so we half I look beyond right now, haffi look ahead too..there has been offers, all (for) me father, people offer thing but we nah sell that so, no sah”.

The Washington Post article had also noted that settlement of the estate had been “hopelessly delayed” due to feuding, particularly among the women who bore Bob’s children” and that several backup musicians who played in Bob’s band, the Wailers, were also suing for a share of the estate.

It noted Marley’s estate, was being “administered by Jamaica’s largest bank, with courts intervening when necessary (which was often) and that some of his children were “furious that estate administrators and lawyers in Kingston, Miami and New York have reaped $4 million in fees while supposedly acting in the heirs’ best interests”.

“He (Bob) had at least 11 children by eight different women, but he left no will, sparking endless claims for his fortune, suits and counter-suits. Marley had little tangible property, but his recordings generate $2.5 million a year in royalties,” the Washington Post noted.

Another sore point during the 10-year imbroglio, was when lawyers, working on the estate’s behalf, sued to take away the house Bob had bought for his mother in Miami. This development was met with outrage by the Marley clan and became a unifying focus which made them more resolute that they would allow no undesirables to control Bob’s legacy.

“These lawyers were paid up to $250 a hour, while Mother B’s grandchildren were getting from $100 to $800 a month as their inheritances,” it added.

In 1991, the battle over Bob’s fortune was eventually settled.  At the time, the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled in favor of his widow Rita Marley and Chris Blackwell’s Island Logic Limited, a company that had controlled the estate from 1989. The decision was taken that the estate would be managed by Island Logic for 10 more years before passing into the hands of Rita and his 11 legally recognized children.

Song catalogs have been trading hands in multi-million dollar deals over the last year. According to CNBC, rock icons Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Neil Young have sold all or portions of their song catalogs in recent deals.  Catalogs belonging to popular hitmakers such as Shakira, Lil Wayne and Calvin Harris have also been recently sold.



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