Whitney Houston returns from beyond the grave with an £80 million deal
She was called “the queen of music” by her friends, and at the height of her career, she signed the biggest record deal in history, valued at some £80 million.
But when she died, at just 48, Whitney Houston was virtually broke, her enormous fortune wasted on bad financial decisions and drugs.
Now, as fans prepare to celebrate what would have been her 60th birthday in August, the “I Will Always Love You” singer makes a surprise return.
It was announced last week that his estate will release a posthumous gospel album called I Go To The Rock, which includes six never-before-heard songs. Whitney will also be performing at the Baftas tonight, where British actress Naomi Ackie has been nominated for playing her in the film I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
And we can reveal that his estate has earned £80 million since his death, thanks in part to a deal with music marketing company Primary Wave.
Whitney’s close friend, composer Raffles van Exel, 54, is the man behind that deal. He revealed: “If you really knew Whitney, you would have loved her. She was crazy, kind, headstrong, beautiful and she had a heart of gold. Whitney was the queen of music. When I met her, she was in her prime and that woman was everywhere.
“I’m proud of my role in the deal because it keeps his legacy alive.”
Whitney’s death at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012 sparked a global wave of mourning.
In his prime in 2001, he signed a $100 million contract to produce music for Arista Records, then a world record holder.
But before her death, she was a shadow of herself, personally and financially, with £20,000 in the bank and debts totaling £3 million.
Whitney had been photographed looking disheveled and erratic in Los Angeles in the days before her death, including on a night out with the Dutch-born Raffles.
Her long-time manager, Pat Houston, who married the star’s brother, Gary, was one of the first to discover her body.
Whitney had passed out in the bathtub of Suite 434 late in the afternoon.
An autopsy gave the cause of death as drowning, but added that a contributing factor was the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.”
Whitney, he claimed, had used cocaine shortly before he died, as well as marijuana and prescription drugs.
Raffles previously recounted how he was with Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, then 18, when he realized something was wrong.
He said: “I opened the door and saw Pat sitting in a chair, white as a sheet, rocking back and forth. Then I saw Whitney lying on the floor with her bodyguard, who had lifted her up to try to give her CPR. It was the first time in my life that I had seen a dead body.”
Her manager, Pat, became the executor of her estate, but because Whitney didn’t write her own songs, the money didn’t flow.
When Raffles held a meeting with Primary Wave founder Larry Mestel in 2019, his estate was valued at just £10 million. Shortly after buying 50 percent of Whitney’s assets that year, Primary Wave hired Norwegian DJ Kygo to remix the late star’s previously unreleased version of Steve Winwood’s song Higher Love.
The new record rose to number one on the dance charts in 2019.
Ahead of what would have been her 60th birthday on August 9, Whitney has a Broadway musical opening and even returning on tour as a hologram.
The new gospel album comes out in March.
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