Sony-Jackson Partnership Said to Plan on Keeping Beatles Rights

Sony-Jackson Partnership Said to Plan on Keeping Beatles Rights

Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, co- owned by Michael Jackson and Sony Corp., will keep control of Beatles songs following the pop singer’s death, said a person with knowledge of the venture’s plans.

Jackson, who died June 25 at age 50 in Los Angeles, owned 50 percent of Sony/ATV, which holds rights to more than 200 songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as well Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and others. His stake is worth about $1 billion, said Ivan Thornton, a private-wealth adviser who has worked with Jackson and his family.

Sony/ATV will continue to hold the Lennon and McCartney catalog, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The U.K.’s Daily Mirror reported in January that Jackson planned to leave the Beatles rights to McCartney in his will to heal a rift between the musicians. Jackson paid $47.5 million in 1985 to buy the ATV catalog, outbidding McCartney and Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.

“Michael was very proud of this partnership,” Martin Bandier, chief executive officer of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, said yesterday in an e-mail. “For him this was about really honing his business skills in an area that he loved.”

Bandier declined to comment further. Paul Freundlich, the New York-based press contact for McCartney, didn’t respond to a phone call or e-mailed message seeking comment yesterday on the status of the Beatles rights.

“I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael,” McCartney said in a statement posted on his Web site. “He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.”

Sony Option

Publishers license music and collect royalties, ensuring the owners get paid when a song is used commercially, such as in a live performance or in a television advertisement. Publishers such as Sony/ATV can also be copyright owners.

In 1995, Jackson merged the ATV collection with Sony Corp.- owned recordings to create Sony/ATV, said Jimmy Asci, a Sony/ATV spokesman. In 2006, Jackson gave Sony an option to buy half of his 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV, allowing the singer to refinance $300 million of loans.

Jackson’s entertainment attorney, Joel Katz, said in an e- mail that he is traveling to Los Angeles to be with the performer’s family and will meet with “many of his professional associates.” He declined to provide further details.

“Michael Jackson was a perfectionist and his business affairs are worldwide,” Katz said in the statement. “Many of them are quite ongoing and will be dealt with appropriately.”

Sales Spike

Jackson’s solo albums “Off the Wall,” “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous” and “HIStory,” were recorded with Sony’s Epic Records and are among the top-sellers of all time, the Tokyo-based company said yesterday in a statement.

He sold 750 million records worldwide and released 13 No. 1 singles, Sony said. Warner Music Group Corp. owns publishing rights to Jackson’s music, according to spokesman Will Tanous in New York.

Sony said it may boost production of the singer’s CDs after receiving “unprecedented” orders. The company’s music unit in Tokyo received orders for about 150,000 CDs related to the singer, according to Yoshikazu Takahashi, a spokesman for Sony Music Entertainment Japan Inc.

Albums featuring Jackson occupied the top 16 rankings for best-selling music at Inc. late yesterday in New York, according to the Seattle-based online retailer’s Web site.

“His business mind was fascinating,” Thornton said in an interview. “We’d go to meetings with bankers and Wall Street people and once I explained the language to him, he totally got it. There was no formal education there, but his natural knack was off the charts.”

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