Sony has announced that it has reached a deal with the late Michael Jackson’s estate to purchase its share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog for $750 million. Back in October, Sony notified the Jackson estate that the company was initiating the buy-sell provision in its joint-venture deal, allowing either party to purchase the other’s half. Late Monday, reports emerged that the two sides had reached an agreement.
The amount offered to the Jackson estate in the deal is equal to the value of its share of Sony/ATV after accounting for the debt held by the venture. According to the announcement, Sony will pay a lump sum of $733 million to the Jackson estate, with the rest accounted for in payments previously committed to by Sony. The parties expect to reach a definitive agreement by the end of March. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
Jackson purchased the ATV portion of the catalog in 1985 for $41.5 million. He later merged it in a joint venture with Sony in 1995, with Sony paying Jackson about $100 million for a 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV joint venture. The catalog contains more than one million copyrights, including about 250 songs by the Beatles as well as hits by acts like Taylor Swift, Eminem, and Lady Gaga. At the time of Jackson’s death, the catalog was his most valuable asset. It is considered one of the jewels of the music industry.
The deal ends one of the most closely watched contests in the music industry. The catalog is for music publishing rights, which cover the lyrics and music that are embodied in any recording. Sony recently completed a deal for the EMI Music Publishing catalog, paying $2.2 billion for those rights in 2012. Controlling the two catalogs would give Sony the biggest catalog in the music-publishing business, with annual sales of roughly $600 million.
Jackson died in 2009 at the age of 50, leaving roughly $500 million in debt. Since his death, his estate has largely eliminated the debt through deals for movies, recordings, theatrical shows and merchandise. If the deal with Sony is completed, the estate will be debt-free and hold hundreds of millions in cash. Jackson’s estate benefits his mother and three children, known as Prince, Paris and Blanket.