In a deal thought to be worth more than $500 million, Sony Music has acquired Michael Jackson’s ATV Music, the music publishing company that holds the rights to many of the Beatles chart toppers, as well as hits from other top recording artists.

The deal, which had been simmering for more than a year, is said to have earned Jackson a payday just shy of $100 million. It also possibly creates overnight the third-largest publishing company in the industry.

EMI Music Publishing still will administer the catalog, which henceforth will be dubbed Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

And although EMI will administer the catalog until 1998, Sony and Jackson will share in the revenues equally, in effect creating a unique joint venture between the music giant and Jackson; Jackson paid more than $35 million for ATV in 1984.

Because the revenues from Sony/ATV flow to Sony and Jackson, label execs suggest the move vaults Sony Music to third among publishing companies, putting it behind Warner/Chappell and EMI, but overtaking Polygram and BMG.

Revenues from ATV’s tunes earn more than $35 million annually, and the catalog is considered one of the industry’s best, with its more than 200 popular Beatles songs.

It also includes tunes made popular by Elvis Presley and Little Richard, in addition to many of the smashes from the ’50s, ’60s and 70s.

ATV is home to such diverse hits as “Yesterday” “Come Together” and “Let It Be,” as well as “Bony Marone” “He’s So Shy” and “Long Tall Sally.”

Jackson tunes exempt

‘With the exception of A& M Records, not since the formation of Reprise Records by Frank Sinatra has there been a major enterprise co-owned by an artist,” said John Branca, Jackson’s attorney who negotiated the deal. The pact excludes Jackson’s songs, which are owned by Mijac Music, his publishing company, which is administered by Warner/Chappell.

“To have (ATV’s catalog) joined with ours will enable both Sony Music and Michael to aggressively build on a publishing portfolio filled with songs that are acknowledged as the cornerstones of popular music,” said Thomas Mottola, president and chief operating officer of Sony Music Entertainment.

The dealmaking process began more than a year ago when, according to sources, Jackson expressed an interest in purchasing the rights to “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was owned by Sony.

Jackson insiders also debunked recent published reports that the singer was cash-strapped and selling ATV as a way of earning money.

“Michael is like a huge corporation,” a Jackson source says. “He has debt and he has cash flow. Not only is he far from being ‘cash-strapped,’ but what he earns daily from interest alone likely could run most large entertainment companies.”

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