Second phase of bidding began July 24.

Former Sony executives Richard Rowe and Paul Russell are advising BC Partners in the equity group's bid for BMG Music Publishing, billboard.biz has learned. BC Partners, which is a leader in European business acquisitions, made the cut as the second phase of bidding for the Bertelsmann publishing unit got under way yesterday (July 24).

Music industry sources say that Rowe, former Sony/ATV worldwide president, and Russell, former Sony Music U.K. chairman, make BC Partners a top contender for the publishing unit. The risk of a challenge under European competition law to any acquisition by a major music company – potentially delaying final payment under an acquisition – could make BC Partners an attractive suitor, the sources say.

Among the bidders invited to the second phase by Bertelsmann are Universal Music Group; Warner Music Group; EMI Group backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; a management buy-out led by BMG Music Publishing chairman/CEO Nicholas Firth backed by Bear Stearns; industry veteran Charles Koppelman backed by GTCR Goldner Rauner; and BC Partners, sources tell billboard.biz.

While some media reports list Sony Corp. as making the cut, sources say that Sony has not been mentioned in conversations in the industry lately as one of the final bidders.

The invitation-only bidding process began in June after Bertelsmann bought out stakeholder Groupe Bruxelles Lambert in order to remain a private company. That buy-out was effective earlier this month.

Binding bids are expected from the investors by the end of August.

Rowe declined comment. Russell could not be reached for comment.