Blackwell retunes with Rykodisc buy

Merger gives Palm distribution outlet

Palm Pictures, the company launched earlier this year by Chris Blackwell following his exit from his Polygram-owned Island Records, has acquired Rykodisc, an independent record label, distributor and music publisher.

The deal, which had been expected, gives the startup Palm an established distribution pipeline with which to release its increasing music product.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to re-enter the record business with such a quality independent company,” said Blackwell, chairman of Islandlife, Palm’s parent. “I truly believe that an independent such as Ryko can offer a viable alternative to the majors for any artist.”

Public problems

Blackwell exited Island in late 1997 after a highly public riff with then-Polygram CEO Alain Levy.

Rykodisc has been on the blocks for several years and its highly circulated prospectus once had an asking price of more than $50 million. Sources put the value of the Palm deal to around $20 million.

“This merger represents a fantastic opportunity for us to grow,” said Don Rose, prexy of Rykodisc.

Rose said the deal, which allows Rykodisc to remain independent, “is the proverbial offer we couldn’t refuse.”

Founded in 1983, Rykodisc has earned its creative stripes by being home to a diverse contingent of artists across several genres.

It will continue to be operated by its co-founders Rose and Arthur Mann from its Salem, Mass., headquarters.

Rykodisc artists include the late Frank Zappa, early catalog of Elvis Costello, Mickey Hart and Morphine (the latter’s albums are now released on DreamWorks Records). It recently pacted with MGM to distribute discs of music from its and United Artist’s marquee films.

Palm, home to Jamaican studio icons Sly & Robbie, jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin and new British alternapop singer Marlena, is also involved in producing and acquiring films, in addition to releasing albums.

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