After two years where a half-dozen midsize music publishing firms disappeared due to consolidation, the marketplace is about to get a "newcomer" who's a force to be reckoned with.
Former Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) chairman/CEO David Renzer has resurfaced, backed by Saban Capital Group, a private investment firm established by Haim Saban.
With a Sony Corp. of America-led consortium -- which recently completed the acquisition of EMI Music Publishing and BMG Rights Management -- seeking to buy anything that moves, the divide between big and small was starting to become a chasm, as the big got bigger and midsize firms like Bug Music, Stage Three, Chrysalis Music Publishing, Evergreen and Cherry Lane got acquired.
But now Renzer returns to the scene with a deep-pocketed backer that's already familiar to music publishing. Saban previously owned the music used in its Saban Brands TV shows like "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Princess Sissi," which it sold in 2010 to Bug (and which BMG subsequently acquired).
Renzer says the venture came together because he and Saban observed an environment changing due to "massive consolidation," which they feel will create new opportunities. With Sony/ATV now administering EMI Music Publishing, he says, "It's quite a challenge to manage millions of copyrights," which inevitably means that some songwriters or catalogs might feel neglected. That's what happened when UMPG acquired BMG Music Publishing. "When the input is millions of songs, the output can only be so much," Renzer says. "So there is going to be opportunities on a whole host of levels."
Renzer, who has been named president of Saban Capital Group's music ventures, hopes to build a full-service music publishing company through picking up artists and catalogs searching for a new home, as well as by acquiring catalogs and other publishers.
"We're looking to deploy in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and we could scale up from there," Renzer says. "We will have access to significant equity and debt, should we need it."
What Saban ultimately invests will depend upon the kind of opportunities presented to it. Likewise, the type of company Renzer ultimately builds and what direction it follows depend on its acquisitions. Renzer describes Saban as a long-term investor in music publishing and says it is in advanced discussions on a number of potential rights acquisitions.
"We are several weeks in but moving aggressively," he says. "We have a list of 25 different opportunities we are looking at and have non-disclosures out with a dozen companies and are already looking at a half a dozen opportunities, [as well as] at acquisitions that could also provide infrastructure solutions. We fully expect that within a few months, we will be operational with a catalog, infrastructure and a staff."
Renzer says the venture will be "broad-based as quickly as possible," with a full array of music from the 1940s to contemporary songs. Moreover, he says the company will focus on TV copyrights and catalogs so that it can function as a music solution for Saban Brands, which includes a host of TV programming for the CW network and other TV and film opportunities. Additionally, the music created for Saban programs and films will be managed by Renzer's venture.
In a statement, chairman/CEO Saban said, "The formation of our music venture enables us to utilize our extensive experience in music and media rights as well as leverage our increasing activity in the creation of broadcast properties."
While Renzer expects the West Coast-based operation to scale up selectively, he says he envisions Nashville and Latin music on the horizon for the firm, which will handle its own administration. He also says there's potential for international expansion, thanks to the digitalization of music. Overall, he and Saban see "an opportunity to create a great boutique company."