Sony/ATV Plans to Keep Rights to Invaluable Beatles Catalogue

Bloomberg News
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sony/ATV Music Publishing, co-owned by Michael Jackson and Sony, will keep control of Beatles songs following the pop singer's death, said a person with knowledge of the venture's plans.

Jackson, who died Thursday at age 50 in Los Angeles, owned 50 percent of Sony/ATV, which holds rights to more than 200 songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and others. His stake is worth about $1 billion, said Ivan Thornton, a private-wealth adviser who has worked with Jackson.

Sony/ATV will continue to hold the Lennon and McCartney catalogue, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn't public. Britain's Daily Mirror reported in January that Jackson planned to leave the Beatles rights to McCartney in his will to heal a rift between the musicians. Jackson paid $47.5 million in 1985 for the catalogue, outbidding McCartney and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono.

"Michael was very proud of this partnership," said Martin Bandier, chief executive of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. "For him this was about really honing his business skills in an area that he loved."

Paul Freundlich, the New York-based media contact for McCartney, didn't respond to messages seeking comment on the status of the Beatles rights.

"I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael," McCartney said on his Web site. "He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever, and my memories of our time together will be happy ones."

Publishers license music and collect royalties, ensuring the owners are paid when a song is used commercially. Publishers can also be copyright owners.

In 1995, Jackson merged the ATV collection with Sony-owned recordings to create Sony/ATV, said Jimmy Asci, a company spokesman. In 2006, Jackson offered Sony the option to buy half of his 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV, allowing the singer to refinance $300 million of loans.

Jackson's entertainment attorney, Joel Katz, said he is traveling to Los Angeles to be with the family and will meet with "many of his professional associates."

"Michael Jackson was a perfectionist and his business affairs are worldwide," Katz said. "Many of them are quite ongoing and will be dealt with appropriately."

Jackson's solo albums "Off the Wall," "Thriller," "Dangerous," "Bad" and "HIStory," were recorded with Sony's Epic Records and are among the top-sellers of all time, the company said.

He sold 750 million records worldwide and released 13 No. 1 singles, Sony said. Warner Music Group owns publishing rights to his music, a spokesman said.

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