Music publishing giant Kobalt, whose roster includes Paul McCartney, The Weeknd, Dave Grohl, Childish Gambino and Lorde, responded to sale rumors that broke into the open on Wednesday evening with a wordy “maybe.”
“We’ve always had great interest in the company,” a rep for Kobalt said in statement. “We’re always evaluating the best capital structure for the business to make sure we have the right capital partners to continue to build and grow the world’s best independent company for artists and songwriters.” Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the company is “working with advisers to explore strategic options including a potential sale,” citing sources as saying it could be valued at more than $1 billion.
The rumor is the latest in the song-catalog boom of the past few years, which has seen companies like SONGS Music sold for a reported $150 million — to Kobalt, as it happens — and fast-rising newcomer Hipgnosis investing more than $1 billion in catalogs in less than two years.
Kobalt’s likely suitors would seem at first to be the three majors, Sony/ATV, Universal and Warner, and Hipgnosis. However, Hipgnosis last week acquired the indie publisher Big Deal — incuding its infrastructure and 35 staffers — and for the majors the complexity and expense of merging with a company the size of 20-year-old Kobalt, which has more than 700 employees in 12 offices across the globe and represents some 25,000 songwriters, could be a deterrent. Sources tell Variety that various entities have circled Kobalt but shied away, due to the price, the nature of its deals — many of which are said to be short-term — or the fact that not all of the company’s current roster necessarily would be included in a deal. However, an investment firm or technology company could make a splashy move into music with an acquisition, or Kobalt could simply continue to ride the rising tide of copyrights.
Kobalt was founded in Sweden by Willard Ahdritz (pictured above) with a proudly stated emphasis on technology, timely payments and transparency in a business that has not traditionally been renowned for those qualities. The company has risen to become one of the world’s largest publishers, and sale rumors picked up in January when Ahdritz shifted from CEO to chairman.