Universal Music U.K. is close to an agreement with George Michael for the release of a new single in the first quarter, sources tell Billboard Bulletin. It is understood that the deal contains an opti

Universal Music U.K. is close to an agreement with George Michael for the release of a new single in the first quarter, sources tell Billboard Bulletin. It is understood that the deal contains an option on Michael's side to release one album with the company. Universal had no comment; Michael's management, London-based ASM, could not be reached.

Michael was last signed to Virgin, which reportedly sold 3.6 million copies worldwide of his 1999 album "Songs From the Last Century." The set topped out at No. 157 on The Billboard 200. Earlier, he was on DreamWorks for North America and Virgin elsewhere. Michael was known to have a good relationship with Ken Berry, former chief executive of Virgin parent EMI, and, prior to Berry's October exit, was expected to re-sign with Virgin.

Universal was one of many companies interested in Michael; he also met recently with Warner Music Group chairman Roger Ames, Warner Music U.K. chairman Nick Phillips, Sony Music Europe president Paul Burger, and Zomba Group chairman Clive Calder, among others.

According to Michael's official Web site, he is currently in his home studio working on an album. The site says the set will be "very 'up' and George is at his very best."