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Sony Music Acquires Major Stake in Michael Jackson Catalog, Valued at $1.2 Billion-Plus

In what is apparently the conclusion of a deal that Variety tipped a year ago, Sony Music Group has completed a transaction to acquire half of Michael Jackson’s publishing and recorded masters in a transaction that values the total catalog at around $1.2 billion, and possibly more, sources confirm to Variety. Billboard reports that Sony will pay at least $600 million for the stake.

If accurate, the deal is the biggest for a single music artist’s assets to date.

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Sources confirm to Variety that the complex deal also includes assets from Jackson’s legendary Mijac publishing catalog, which includes multiple titles by Sly & the Family Stone as well as hits written or performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, Percy Sledge, Dion and others. However, it does not include royalties from the “MJ” Broadway musical and other theatrical productions featuring the musician’s music.

Primary Wave Music continues to hold a 10% stake in Jackson’s publishing assets, sources confirm to Variety.

Reps for Sony, the Jackson estate and Primary Wave either declined or did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment. Sony similarly did not comment on its widely reported deal to acquire Bruce Springsteen’s publishing and recorded-music catalog several years ago for around $600 million.

When Variety first reported on the negotiations last February, the estate was said to be seeking $800-$900 million, although it is possible that a different set of assets was included in the final deal, as the value of Jackson’s catalog has only risen in the past year.

The co-executors of Jackson estate’s — the singer’s longtime lawyer John Branca and executive John McClain — are expected to remain in their roles.

Sony and its predecessor CBS were the sole home for Jackson’s recorded-music catalog for his entire solo career and the latter years of his career with the Jackson 5. The singer died in 2009 at the age of 50; the formidable entertainment interests of his estate have been handled with a firm hand by Branca, his longtime attorney, and co-executor John McClain.

Jackson’s recorded-music catalog is one of most lucrative in history — his 1982 “Thriller” album alone is one of the two biggest sellers of all time and was the first album to be certified 30-times platinum, although such figures have become muddled in the streaming age.

In 2016 Sony Corp. reached a $750 million agreement with the estate to acquire the Jackson estate’s 50% stake in their joint venture, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which they had formed in 1995. In 2018 Sony revealed in an earnings report that as part of its $2.3 billion acquisition of EMI Music Publishing, it had acquired the Jackson estate’s 25.1% stake in that company for $287.5 million.

At the end of that years-long process, which had begun six years earlier but was not cleared by the European Union until 2018, EMI and Sony/ATV were fully owned by Sony, making it sole owner of the world’s largest music publishing company.

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