Bertelsmann has decided to sell its BMG Music Publishing division to help prevent a minority shareholder from taking its shares public.

Bertelsmann has decided to sell its BMG Music Publishing division to help prevent a minority shareholder from taking its shares public.

The German media group said in a statement this morning (May 25) that it would invite "selected bidders" to engage in an auction process in June.

Proceeds from the sale will help Bertelsmann to buy-back the 25.1% shareholding owned by Belgian investor Albert Frere's Groupe Bruxelles Lambert. The €4.5 billion ($5.7 billion) asking price, says Bertelsmann, is "reasonable." As previously reported, Bertelsmann CEO Gunter Thielen said he was prepared to purchase the GBL stake at a decent price in order to thwart a flotation of its shares on the stock market.

Guetersloh-based Bertelsmann will finance the rest of its buy-back with effect from July 1 via a bridge loan provided by several unidentified banks. A rumored sale of Bertelsmann's stake in the 50/50 joint-venture Sony BMG was not mentioned in the statement.

"I am happy about the buyback," commented Liz Mohn, speaker of the majority shareholding Mohn family, in today's statement. "It guarantees the independence of the company and its lasting and sustained development on the basis of our proven corporate culture. It secures the greatest possible freedom for the executive board to manage the business."

BMG Publishing has built up a substantial catalog in recent years under CEO Nick Firth. Key to that was absorbing Zomba Music Publishing in 2002, which gave the company an extensive modern pop and rock repertoire.

According to Thielen, BMG Publishing had its best-ever year in 2005, with revenues exceeding €372 million ($478 million). Current BMG writers include Coldplay, Robbie Williams and his collaborator Stephen Duffy, Dave Stewart and R. Kelly.

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