Jimi Hendrix's brother: $80 million estate has fallen into wrong hands
By Samantha Murphy
Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970, not only left behind a music legacy, but also a lucrative estate.
(COURT TV) -- As a courtroom battle rages over the multimillion-dollar estate of legendary guitar guru Jimi Hendrix, some family members are speaking out that the 1960s icon barely knew his inheritor, stepsister Janie Hendrix.
"Jimi didn't know Janie back then, she was just a little girl," Diane Hendrix-Teitel, the rock star's first cousin, told Courttv.com.
Janie Hendrix, however, claims she not only successfully manages the rocker's estate, she is also one of the reasons Jimi Hendrix albums are still in the spotlight worldwide.
Hendrix, who played a right-handed guitar upside-down with his left-hand and sent songs such as "Purple Haze" and "All Along the Watchtower," to the top of the charts, died in September 1970 after choking on his own vomit while intoxicated. He was 27.
Hendrix left his fortune to his father, Al, including all music rights, royalties, merchandise income, as well as Experience Hendrix, LLC, the company charge of the estate.
When Al Hendrix died in April 2002, he bequeathed the entire estate, now worth an estimated $80 million, to his adopted stepdaughter, Janie, and left nothing for Hendrix's brother, Leon.
Leon Hendrix, 56, claims Janie Hendrix influenced their father to write him out of the will in 1997 and to deny him the 25 percent trust funds he was originally allotted. He filed suit against his stepsister to win back his share of the estate.
The case, which has polarized the Hendrix family, went to court on June 28 at the King County Superior Court in Seattle, before Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell. The trial is expected to last another week.
Brother vs. stepsister
Leon Hendrix, who has teamed up with seven of the 11 estate beneficiaries, aims to remove Janie as head of the estate on grounds that she used the inheritance as her own personal playground.
For example, Janie spent $3 million creating a record label for her husband and recording three of his gospel albums, the suit alleges.
"I want Janie's credit card to be taken away," said attorney David Osgood, who is representing the seven beneficiaries. "Janie has spent money into oblivion. They will tell you that the income over the past few years earned them $47 million, but what they won't tell you is that they spent $48 million, which is a huge net operating loss."
The plaintiffs also assert she has done a terrible job managing the estate.
"They attempted to put out a fan magazine, but since it wasn't done correctly, no one bought it," Osgood said. "There was an unsuccessful Web site and a surplus amount of bonuses set to help Janie and her cohorts."
However, Janie Hendrix's attorney, John Wilson, says the facts show that his client has been an excellent manager of the estate.
"Al Hendrix wanted to give the legacy to Janie for one purpose: to keep the legacy alive," Wilson said. "She started from scratch with $26 million in debt while everyone was waiting in the sidelines for her and her husband to fail. But they have been extremely successful."
As part of their call to remove Janie Hendrix as head of the estate, Leon Hendrix and other beneficiaries say that the money should go to support those people who were close to the rock star.
According to documents, Al Hendrix adopted Janie on April 4, 1968, two years before Jimi died. Osgood contends Janie Hendrix met the guitar virtuoso only three or four times for about 10 minutes each time.
"The longest she ever spent with Jimi was when she tagged along with Leon to a concert when she was 9-years-old," Osgood said.
"Jimi was a family man," Hendrix-Teitel said. "I grew up with him and I was in constant contact with him even in the height of his career. I was like his real sister, so I got to know him well."
Hendrix-Teitel, 53, who is a minister in Seattle, said Jimi Hendrix would have wanted his brother, Leon, to have part of the legacy.
"He was a giver, never selfish. He loved us all and he certainly loved Leon," Hendrix-Teitel told Courttv.com. "He would have wanted to him have so much."
Hendrix-Teitel said she hopes the trial will benefit everyone and allow Janie to see the truth in her wrongdoing.
"She was blessed that she was adopted into a family that some people long for in life. She still has the chance to make things right," Hendrix-Teitel said. "I don't think you really know a person until they are given something like this."
"Estates bring out the worst in people," said C. Barry Ward, the attorney who represented Lisa Marie Presley in a similar battle over Elvis Presley's estate. "Greed gets in the way of family settlements. If everyone comes to an agreement in this Hendrix case, provided the court will agree, everyone could be happy."
Ward said regardless of the trial's outcome, Hendrix's legacy should live on despite what happens to his estate.
Wilson, however, says that the ongoing success of Hendrix's legacy owes something to Janie Hendrix's leadership.
In fact, according to Wilson, Jimi Hendrix's legacy ranks number five in all-time grossing revenues for a recording artist, after Elvis Presley, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Bob Marley.
"This is largely because of the efforts of Janie and her husband," Wilson said. "What they did as far as attaining income with securing new tapes not only helped current revenues but will show in future revenues as well."
The plaintiffs, however, say Janie Hendrix has nothing to do with the legacy.
"Jimi's fan base is one thing only it's about his genius as guitarist, musician and performer," Osgood said. "All the work needed to solidify the fan base was accomplished in 1970 when he was alive, creating, and creative. Nothing magical about Janie Hendrix adds to that legacy."