As the Warner Music Group (WMG) auction comes into the final stretch, there appears to be three bidders still in the running -- but only two of them are the same as last week.
Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies dropped out of the bidding, Bloomberg News reported last week. So the third round finalists appear to be Platinum Equity and the Gores Group; Len Blavatnik's Access Industries; and a third group reportedly comprised of Guggenheim Partners, Ronald Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. and anchored by Sony (although which division of that company is a matter of debate).
While Bloomberg says Sony/ATV is the third leg of the stool, other sources suggest that Sony Corp. is making the bid. That consists of Guggenheim partnering with Sony/ATV in bidding on Warner/Chappell, and Sony Music partnering with Perelman for the recorded music operation. But still, other sources say that while Sony is still at the table, one of the other two has pulled out.
In earlier rounds, Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes bid on WMG's recorded music operation, while Guggenheim, in partnership with David Schulhof's E2 Group, bidding on Warner Chappell. But when the WMG board decided to sell the company as a whole, that decision eliminated suitors like Guggenheim and MacAndrews & Forbes that had bid on part of the company. In aligning with Sony, Guggenheim, which owns a majority stake in Billboard, apparently decided to switch horses. The suitors and seller either declined comment, or couldn't be reached by press time.
Bids, which were due Monday, are said to be at the $3 billion level. A decision could come down this week.
WMG shares closed at $7.37, down 3 cents from the previous day close.