Star Tribune: Former Prince employees launch foundation with royal fundraiser starring R&B group King

By Jon Bream / Star Tribune

Former Paisley Park employees launch charitable foundation to support Prince’s favorite causes.

While Prince’s heirs are busy trying to figure out what to do with his music and intellectual property, some of his ex-employees are determined to carry on his charity work.

Several former Purple people have formed the PRN Alumni Foundation (as in Prince Rogers Nelson — he often used PRN for some of his businesses).

“We put the foundation together to keep his philanthropic work going,” said foundation board president Jacqui Thompson, who ran Paisley Park from 1996 to 2000. “The estate is doing what it does.”

The PRN Alumni Foundation will hold a fundraiser Thursday featuring King, a Grammy-nominated R&B trio starring the Strother twins from Minneapolis. Prince was a mentor to the group, which performed at Paisley Park when he was still alive.

At the fundraiser, there will be a silent auction that includes an autographed Carlos Santana guitar, among other items.

On Saturday at the Capri Theater, PRN alumni will present three panel discussions about Prince: sound, fashion and record label.

Speakers include engineers Susan Rogers and Scottie Baldwin; singer/instrumentalist Paul Peterson; designer Stacia Lang; hairstylist Kim Berry; makeup artist Cheryl Nick; manager Gilbert Davison; Paisley executive Craig Rice, and webmaster Sam Jennings.

The Capri in north Minneapolis is where Prince gave his first professional performance in January 1979.

The events coincide with the 30th anniversary of the opening of Paisley Park, Prince’s Chanhassen studio complex that became a museum 11 months ago.

The foundation was formed after about 300 former Prince staffers gathered last November to raise money for some needy colleagues, such as the late NPG drummer John Blackwell, who was then battling brain cancer.

“After that event, there was so much love,” recalled Thompson, who now works in the import business in Los Angeles. “We thought we could take this further. Let’s do something positive. So we created a board of directors.”

They also researched to see where Prince donated money.

“It was everything from solar [energy] to the R&B Foundation and kids’ programs and organic urban gardening,” said Thompson. “That’s our mission, to keep that legacy alive, even though he never promoted that [charitable giving].”

So the PRN Alumni Foundation plans to donate money to children’s arts and music programs, Prince alumni in need, and an urban garden initiative run by ex-Prince protégée Taja Sevelle.

The foundation has not yet communicated with Prince’s heirs.

“We are in the finalization stages of all our legal documents for the foundation and once that is all in place,” Thompson said, “we will be contacting the estate and heirs.”

The Star Tribune reached out to Prince’s family and received the following statement: “We support the work of the PRN Alumni Foundation and applaud their efforts in continuing to further Prince’s charitable goals.”

Thompson said the alumni group was not done in response to some of its principals not being asked to participate in Celebration 2017 at Paisley Park in April.

“Not at all,” she said. “So many people worked with him. We have only a certain amount of people on a panel. We hope to take these panels on tour. We’re doing baby steps right now.”

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