Pricetag estimated at as much as $200 million
Imagem Music Group has signed an agreement to purchase the rights to the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog of legit classics as well as the Rodgers & Hammerstein Org, the licensing and publishing company that reps a slew of Broadway tunes by creatives including Irving Berlin.No purchase price was disclosed, although some estimates peg the sale at $225 million-$250 million on $17 million in cash flow. The current management team of the R&H Org, topped by prexy and exec director Theodore S. Chapin, will remain in place. A Dutch company founded last year, Imagem is purchasing the assets from the estates of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist and book writer Oscar Hammerstein II. Imagem will own the rights to the stable of musicals penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein, including “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “Oklahoma!” and a major percentage of “The Sound of Music” (co-owned with the estates of librettists Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse). It also will own the R&H Org, which, as a licensing company and music publisher, reps works by Berlin, Stephen Schwartz, Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, Sheldon Harnick, Adam Guettel, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kurt Weill, among others, but does not own the rights to those works. Still up in the air are North American rights to the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Cats,” “The Phantom of the Opera”), currently repped by the R&H Org in a deal that must be re-struck upon the sale of the company. Chapin and Andre de Raaff, Imagem’s top exec, said they already have begun discussions with Webber’s Really Useful Group about continuing to license the composer’s works. Over its 65-year history, R&H Org has become known for the tight grip it keeps on the properties it controls. Lincoln Center Theater’s hit Rialto production of “South Pacific,” for instance, is the first open-ended Broadway revival of the tuner since its 1949 preem despite longtime ongoing interest from a wide array of Gotham producers. That m.o. won’t change, according to de Raaff. “We think the company is so valuable because of the way the copyrights have been treated over the years,” he said. Imagem is the music publishing investment fund of ABP, a Netherlands-based pension fund, and the Dutch music publisher CP Masters BV. R&H Org joins an Imagem stable that also includes former Universal Music Group catalogs including the pop rosters of Zomba U.K., 19 Music and a hefty chunk of BBC Music, plus classical music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. The latest acquisition marks another step in Imagem’s strategy to diversify the music genres repped by the company, which reports annual revenues of more than s100 million ($130 million) and owns the rights to more than 200,000 tunes. In Gotham, the sale of the R&H Org caps off months of rumors about a potential purchase, with Really Useful Group and Key Brand/Broadway Across America said to be in the mix of bidders. Also said to have expressed interest were Sony Music, Music Theater Intl. and Cameron Mackintosh.