Ray Charles’ children are accusing his longtime manager of mismanaging his estate and trusts and tarnishing his legacy by releasing two posthumous CDs the late singer never would have approved, according to a published report.
In allegations outlined Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, several of Charles’ 12 children accused Joe Adams of holding too much power over Ray Charles Enterprises and the Ray Charles Foundation and excluding them from business dealings.
They’re seeking a formal investigation and audit looking into their father’s estate, trusts and foundation for possible wrongdoing. They have complained to the California attorney general, the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office and the FBI.
"The biggest issue with me is disrespect for the family and kids," said Robert Robinson, one of Charles’ sons. "If you respect a man and his work, then respect his kids. His blood is flowing through our veins."
Charles’ children hope to win control of the marketing of their father’s name and image, and a greater voice in foundation affairs. Professional estimates place the value of Charles’ musical recordings at about $25 million, plus another $50 million he held in securities, real estate and other assets.
They said that during a family meeting in 2002 Charles said he placed $500,000 in trusts for each of the children to be paid out over the next five years. He also hinted that there would be more for them "down the line," and some of the children said they interpreted it to mean they would inherit the right to license his name and likeness for profit.
But trust documents and a copy of Charles’ will do not mention the rights to his image. Charles also did not leave anything to Adams in his will, the family said in a statement on Sunday.
Adams, who signed on as Charles’ manager in 1961, served as head of Ray Charles Enteprises, director of the charitable foundation and trustee of the children’s trusts.
In a federal lawsuit, Mary Anne Den Bok, the mother of Charles’ youngest child, alleges that Adams was paid nearly $1.2 million in "improper compensation" in 2005 and 2006 and that some of Charles’ master recordings may have been sold.
Adams also served simultaneously as chairman, president and treasurer of the foundation in violation of state law, according to court documents and correspondence from the California attorney general’s office.
Adams later appointed a new treasurer and added a majority of outsiders to the board, but Den Bok claims in her lawsuit that he still exercises power at the organizations.
A call seeking comment from Jerry Digney, a spokesman for Adams, was not immediately returned Sunday. Adams, 86, declined to be interviewed by the Times; Digney called the assertions "old, baseless allegations."