Thursday, February 3, 2011

Intrigue In Major Label Land

So now that Citibank has taken back EMI from the investment group Terra Firma for non-payment, what now? It's almost certain that Citi will sell off EMI's parts to cover as much of the debt as possible (they've already written off about $3 billion), but who are the buyers?

It's said that Warner Music Group really wants EMI publishing badly, but they have a problem as well. Apparently the company that bankrolled Edgar Bronfman Jr to buy Warners in the first place, Thomas Lee Partners, wants out badly and has hired Goldman Sachs to find a buyer. So how does Warner buy something when they're up for sale themselves? With help from a Russian oligarch, that's how.

Apparently Leonid "Len" Blavatnik, who's on the Forbes list of billionaires with $7.5 billion in net worth, is big buddies with Bronfman and it's been reported that he may fund the sale of EMI and buy TMP out of the deal as well. Warners would then sell off their own publishing arm, Warner Chappell Music, to KKR/BMI Rights Management, and be a lot stronger than before, thanks to a new publishing catalog that features The Beatles and Pink Floyd, among others.

But don't be surprised if the other remaining labels, Universal Music Group and Sony Music, have some say into this as well. Even though Universal is more about current music as opposed to catalog, they do own the major market share of today's music business, and would find such a piece as EMI Publishing too savory a tidbit to pass up.

So there's a lot of intrigue in major label land as they all jockey for position at the top of a hill that's getting smaller and smaller every day.

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