In what is being touted as the richest music publishing deal ever, EMI Music is expected to announce today an agreement with embattled pop star Michael Jackson under which EMI will administer his ATV Music Publishing catalogue, which includes nearly all of the Beatles' major hits.
The five-year agreement to help Jackson exploit his portfolio of other people's music is said to be a deal that will bring the singer $200 million, about half of it in advance. But sources in the music publishing business were skeptical, suggesting that the proceeds will be closer to $90 million, with about $40 million of it coming to Jackson on signing.
As part of the deal, EMI will provide Jackson with a multimillion-dollar copyright acquisition fund for future purchases of music in partnership with EMI, although Jackson will retain ownership of ATV, sources said.
The deal comes at a tumultuous time for Jackson, who has disappeared from public view as he undergoes treatment for addiction to painkillers. He is also the subject of a criminal investigation into allegations that he molested a 13-year-old boy. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing.
Sources said that despite the upheaval in his personal life, Jackson has been keeping abreast of the negotiations with EMI.
"Michael has the largest independent publishing company in the world," said music industry lawyer John Branca, who represented Jackson in the talks with EMI. "It's good to know his business can carry on through all of the turmoil."
Jackson has built a vast music publishing catalogue that is worth, by some estimates, as much as $500 million. ATV includes songs from artists such as Little Richard, the Pointer Sisters and Kenny Rogers and is said to generate about $30 million in revenue annually.
The catalogue also features virtually every hit Beatles song, including "Yesterday," "Ticket to Ride" and "Revolution." The only Beatles songs Jackson does not own are those from the movies "Help" and "A Hard Day's Night."
The investment in ATV has clearly paid off for Jackson, who raised eyebrows when he bought the catalogue for $47.5 million in 1988. He has since sold some $6 million worth of it.
Managing the publishing rights to catalogues of songs is a lucrative business in which the administrating company receives a percentage of the royalties collected. Companies actively market the songs to artists and for commercials and other purposes. EMI, part of Britain's Thorn EMI, and its chief rival, Time Warner's Warner/Chappell Music, continually compete to be the top music publisher.
Warner/Chappell is said to have dropped out of the bidding in October.
"These treasures are now back where they belong," EMI Chairman Martin Bandier said, noting that EMI had the catalogue before MCA took over several years ago.
Last fall, Elton John and Bernie Taupin signed a $39-million deal with Warner/Chappell Music for the rights to administer all their post-1974 songs.
* SUBPOENAS ISSUED
A Santa Barbara grand jury begins issuing subpoenas in the Jackson probe. A1.