Regulators near approval; U.S. clearance would be next step

The European Union is expected to approve a Sony-led $2.2 billion purchase of EMI Group’s music publishing biz on Thursday, paving the way for U.S. regulators to do the same.

The Federal Trade Commission is also examining the merger, which was announced last November, but EU passage was considered the larger hurdle. Sony is said to have made a number of concessions to get to this point, including agreeing to sell European rights for EMI’s Virgin catalog.

A spokesman for Sony/ATV Music Publishing declined to comment. The EU had set Thursday as a self-imposed deadline by which to issue a decision.

Sony acquired the asset from Citigroup with partners including David Geffen, Blackstone Group, the estate of Michael Jackson — a partner in Sony/ATV — and Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Co.

The merger will result in layoffs, although probably fewer than 300 or so staffers, or 60% of EMI’s workforce, cited in a report circulated to investors about four months ago and reported in the New York Times.

Sony/ATV owns or administers over 750,000 songs by artists from the Beatles, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga, John Mayer and Shakira.

EMI Music Publishing holds 1.3 million copyrights from Beyonce, Drake, Jay-Z, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Pink, Scissor Sisters, Rihanna, Stargate, Usher, Kanye West and many others. It holds rights to some of the greatest Motown hits from the 1960s and a wide range of film and TV scores.

A separate deal, Universal Music Group’s pact to acquire EMI’s recorded music business, is still moving through the regulatory process. This week, the proposed $1.9 billion deal won the support of two North American artists unions, SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians.

The EU has set an Aug. 8 deadline to pronounce on that combination.

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