Nick Gatfield, Former EMI Exec, Calls Working Under Guy Hands' Regime 'Uncomfortable'
Nick Gatfield, Former EMI Exec, Calls Working Under Guy Hands' Regime 'Uncomfortable'

With the deadline for first-round bids in the EMI auction looming this weekend, sources say that many of the suitors who bid on Warner Music Group have also bid on the British major.

While nearly a dozen suitors made bids for WMG, in an auction won by Access Industries, which last week assumed control of that company by paying $3.3 billion, Billboard.biz has confirmed that at least five of those companies had bid on EMI, or were readying to do so at presstime.

Those companies are the Access Industries, which hopes to buy all of EMI and merge it with the Warner Music Group; Universal Music Group, which wants to buy EMI's recorded music operation and merge it with its own; Sony Corp., which wants to purchase EMI Music Publishing and merge it with Sony/ATV Music Publishing; and BMG, which wants to buy the EMI's publishing arm and certain catalog masters.

In addition, Platinum Equity and the Gore Group, one of the three finalists for WMG, wants to buy all of EMI; and MacAndrews & Forbes, the investment arm of billionaire Ronald Perelman, is expected to make a bid; as are Oaktree Capital Management.

The auction initially is expected to follow the form of the WMG auction, which asked for each suitor to put in their best bids for the whole company and/or specific bids for the publishing and recorded music operations. After EMI owner Citigroup gets a feel for where all the bidders stand, it is expected to allow suitors to form alliance later on, if it chooses to sell the company in its entirety.

In the case of the latter suitors mentioned above, last time out MacAndrews & Forbes only bid on WMG's label; it was unclear at press time if it intends to follow the same strategy this time or will bid on the entire company.

Meanwhile, Oaktree Capital Management, in conjunction with Primary Wave Music Publishing, initially was believed to be seeking to purchase Warner/Chappell. But after the private equity owners of WMG decided to sell WMG in one piece, sources say that Oaktree was involved in the joint bid made by several bidders, who planned on splitting up the company. That bid was termed a higher-conditional bid at $8.50 a share, but the WMG board went for the sure lower $8.25 by Access. At the time, Billboard reported that joint bid was offered by Sony, Guggenheim Partners and Ronald Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes. But as it turns out, Guggenheim Partners was not a part of the joint bid and was acting as an agent for Oaktree, sources now say.

At presstime, it was also unclear if Oaktree/Primary Wave would bid on just the publishing or make a play for the entire company.

Reps for EMI did not respond to Billboard.biz's request for comment, while the suitors either didn't respond or offered no comment.