EMI in talks to ‘revitalize’ Abbey Road

Preservation of the studio listed as an initial priority

In the wake of reports that historic Abbey Road studios is for sale, EMI said Sunday it is holding preliminary discussions with “interested and appropriate third parties” to revitalize the studio where the Fab Four recorded the bulk of their work.

The music publishing company said in a statement that the public preservation organization English Heritage had reacted favorably to public pleas to preserve the site as a “historic treasure.”

The label group, which was acquired by U.K. private equity firm Terra Firma in 2007, said preservation of the studio — made iconic by the Beatles’ 1969 album of the same name — was listed as an initial priority of Terra Firma when it took over the label. “Abbey Road studios had, for a number of years, been losing money, and we have developed plans to revitalize the studios,” EMI said in the statement. “These plans would involve a substantial injection of new capital.”

The label said it “welcomes the reported acceleration” of English Heritage’s plans to list Abbey Road as an historic facility as an appropriate way to protect “our world-famous music-heritage site.”

Label, after issuing no comment to speculation that the facility was on the sales block, acknowledged it has held discussions “with a number of parties” since November with the aim of revitalizing the venue, and that it received an offer in mid-2009 to buy the studios for “£30 million” ($46.4 million). But it said the bid was rejected with the intention that “Abbey Road should remain in EMI’s ownership.”

According to one source close to the situation, many options have been pursued to ensure that Abbey Road remains a fully operational, multifunctional facility that would require “revitalization on a number of fronts.” The major labels have been shedding these kinds of assets over the years due to large overhead, the increasingly nimble and affordable nature of home recording equipment and independent recording operations, as well as a general downturn in the music business. But speculation that EMI was planning to sell Abbey Road to pay down debt is patently false, the source asserted.

Label refused to identify the intended buyer or with which parties it is negotiating to modernize the facility, where albums like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and scores for such films as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were recorded.

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