Rock Band maker Harmonix sold by Viacom to private investment firm

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Viacom Inc. has found an unlikely buyer for Harmonix Music Systems, creator of its Rock Band video games.

The media giant announced Thursday that it has sold Cambridge, Mass.-based Harmonix to Columbus Nova, a private investment firm based in New York.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Columbus Nova did not reveal its plans for Harmonix.

‘Columbus Nova is really excited about backing the world-class team that has consistently produced such great games and helping them grow the company and its brands,’ a spokesman said in a statement.


Viacom disclosed in November that it was trying to sell Harmonix, which it acquired in 2006. It had failed to make money on any of the studio’s three Rock Band games release between 2007 and 2009 and was facing a rapid decline in consumer interest for music video games.

One person familiar with the matter said that Viacom told potential buyers it wanted to sell Harmonix by the end of this year for tax purposes.

Viacom paid $175 million to buy Harmonix and agreed to pay more based on the its financial performance in 2007 and 2008. After initially giving the development studio’s former owners $150 million for 2007 performance, Viacom is now attempting to get some of that money back.

It is in the midst of a legal battle with the former Harmonix shareholders, who contend that they are owed hundreds of millions more in performance-based payments.

Financial analysts previously estimated Viacom would receive less than $100 million in a sale of Harmonix.

This year, Harmonix released Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, a well-received dancing game for Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect device.


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-- Ben Fritz