Sony to Buy Michael Jackson’s Publishing Company, Including Beatles Catalog
Sony has agreed to buy out the late Michael Jackson‘s 50 percent share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, holders to the rights of almost all of the Beatles catalog. Billboard reports that Jackson’s estate is set to receive more than $750 million in a transaction that should close later this year or in early 2017.
Jackson outbid his friend Paul McCartney to purchase ATV Music in 1985 for more than $40 million, then sold half to Sony a decade later for more than $100 million to create Sony/ATV. By the time of his death in 2009, Jackson was approximately $500 million in debt, according to multiple sources. This new deal allows his family to pay off that debt and begin building cash reserves, the estate’s co-executors said in a prepared statement.
McCartney and Jackson had previously enjoyed a lengthy period of collaboration, highlighted by a No. 1 pop duet in 1983’s “Say Say Say,” but that relationship soured after the ATV acquisition. McCartney had been attempting to gain control of the music he composed with John Lennon for years – something he said he’d previously mentioned to Jackson.
The Beatles’ song rights originally resided with Northern Songs, a company formed by Lennon and McCartney, the late Beatles manager Brian Epstein and publisher Dick James. Following Epstein’s death in 1967, Lennon and McCartney reportedly tried to re-negotiate their publishing agreement with James, but were unsuccessful. James subsequently sold the Beatles catalog to ATV.
Rumors of the pending Sony/ATV sale began circulating as early as last fall. In addition to 250 Beatles tracks, the 750,000-song Sony/ATV archive includes compositions by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift. Its worth has been previously estimated at $2 billion.
Jackson’s estate retains a 10 percent share of EMI’s publishing arm, Mijac Music, along with the company that owns all of Jackson’s songs and master recordings. Sony recently reissued Jackson’s 1979 album Off the Wall, which included his version of “Girlfriend,” a song written by McCartney for Wings‘ London Town in 1978.
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