TOKYO: Sony said Tuesday it will pay Michael Jackson’s estate $750 million for the late pop star’s share of a music venture that owns the rights to songs by some of the biggest names in music history.
The deal will see the Japanese firm pick up Jackson’s 50 percent stake in Sony ATV Music Publishing, which owns several million titles including those written by the Beatles, Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan.
Sony will now control all the of the company, whose catalogue also includes hits by pop star Taylor Swift, rapper Kanye West, Sam Smith and Lady Gaga.
Sony ATV Music Publishing was formed in 1995 by the Japanese electronics giant and the late “King of Pop”, who transformed music with iconic hits including “Thriller” and “Beat it”.
Jackson died in 2009 at the age of 50. His estate said it will still own his master recordings and the publishing company that owns all the songs he penned. It will also keep its stake in EMI Music.
The singer, a notoriously profligate spender, turned to music publishing rights at the height of his stardom as he looked for a place to invest his burgeoning fortune.
The proceeds from the catalogue offered vital revenue for the star later in his life as he struggled to pay his expenses and released little new material.
Jackson said he first learned of the music publishing business from former Beatle Paul McCartney, who bought the copyright to songs by Buddy Holly and other classic artists.
The Beatles did not show the same business acumen early in their career, however, losing control of their catalogue under the company Northern Songs — which eventually came under ATV.
‘Smartest investment in music history’
Jackson bought ATV Music Publishing in 1985 for $47.5 million, or about $105 million at 2016 value, from the brash South African-born Australian tycoon Robert Holmes a Court.
The deal “is considered one of the smartest investments in music history”, Jackson’s estate executors said Tuesday.
In the negotiations, the businessman insisted on excluding a song from the deal so he could give it as a present to his teenage daughter.
Catherine Holmes a Court was given the copyright to the song “Penny Lane,” which she continues to own today, one of the few Beatles’ tracks not part of ATV.
McCartney was friendly with Jackson, collaborating on the track “The Girl is Mine” off “Thriller,” but was unsuccessful in bids to wrest control of the Beatles catalog.
Jackson sold half of the stake in ATV to Sony in 1991 for a reported $100 million.
His will called for his mother Katherine and his three children — Prince, Paris and Blanket — to be supported, although not his father Joe Jackson, whom he had accused of abuse.
On Tuesday, Sony said the deal underscored a focus on its entertainment division, which includes a music label and Hollywood studio.
The company has been leaning on movies, music and soaring sales of the PlayStation video game console in its bid to scrap years of eye-watering losses linked to the consumer electronics that built its global brand.
“The entertainment businesses have long been a core part of Sony and are a key driver of our future growth,” Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai said.