The death of a co-owner is a sad and difficult passage for any company.
But when the co-owner in question is Michael Jackson and the company is Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the proprietor of the Beatles song catalog, the transition is bound to attract the public spotlight.
And that suits Sony/ATV chairman/CEO Martin Bandier just fine.
Bandier--the legendary music publisher who joined the company in April 2007 after spending nearly two decades transforming EMI Music Publishing from a minor firm into an industry powerhouse--is clearly comfortable with being in the public eye, even if he's just as silent as other Sony Corp. executives on the topic of all things Jackson.
But the publishing veteran isn't bashful when it comes to talking about how he has turned around Sony/ATV from a sleepy company to a contender for every major deal that has come up since his arrival.
"In its history, Sony/ATV never won an ASCAP pop publisher of the year award and this year in May we won it," Bandier says. "That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment. I knew we would get there one day, but never thought we would do it within two years."
Sony/ATV shared the award with Bandier's old company, EMI Music Publishing, which suits the competitive executive just fine. In any event, Bandier plans on duplicating his EMI success at Sony/ATV, which is considered to be the smallest of the four major-owned music publishers and is half-owned by Sony.
"We have a great deal of autonomy and tremendous support from Sony, who are big believers in music publishing and copyright," Bandier says. "They have a real long-term view on growing this business and building it into the premier music publisher that I think it has become, although clearly not in terms of its size. But, shucks, it's only two-and-a-half years."
Bandier's impact at Sony/ATV is evident from studying Billboard's Top 10 Publisher Airplay chart (see page 18). Since its inception in second-quarter 2006, the chart has ranked publishers by their share of a given quarter's top 100 airplay songs as determined by Nielsen BDS. During the first four quarters of the chart before Bandier's arrival, Sony/ATV consistently placed either third or fourth. But during the last six quarters under his watch, Sony/ATV has ranked first once, second three times and third twice.
Since Bandier came aboard, Sony/ATV's key artist/songwriter signings and acquisitions have included Lady GaGa, Flo Rida, Sean Kingston, Akon, Shakira and, most recently, Enrique Iglesias. His key producer/writer signings have included RedOne (whose current projects include GaGa, Iglesias, Kingston and Adam Lambert), John Shanks (Bon Jovi, Colbie Caillat, Leona Lewis, Natasha Bedingfield) and Evan Bogart (Jordin Sparks, Beyoncé), as well as new signings Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West) and Boi-1da, writer/producer of Drake's current hit "Best I Ever Had."
Bandier's tenure at Sony/ATV began with the acquisitions of the Leiber & Stoller and Famous Music catalogs. And many industry executives wonder if Jackson's death will result in another acquisition--the remaining 50% of Sony/ATV owned by the trust created by Jackson and now managed by his estate. Sony executives declined to address the question directly.
"We are very happy with the tremendous growth and financial performance at Sony/ATV over the past few years," says Rob Wiesenthal, executive VP/CFO at Sony Corp. of America. "We are not sellers. We love this business and are completely focused on growing it."
Click here to read more about Sony/ATV's stake in the Beatles catalog, and the publisher's approach to expanding the business.