CarlinAmerica was founded by legendary music publisher Freddy Bienstock -- who worked closely with Elvis in his early career -- who passed in 2009, and is now run by his daughter Caroline Bienstock.
Carlin's catalog is being shopped by Ossie Kilkenny, a financial accountant and a trusted advisor to the company, sources say. News that the company was up for sale was first reported by the Financial Times, although some dismiss the event as an exploratory situation that might not even result in a sale. Suitors are said to include the majors, a few independent music publishers and private equity.
While sources say that the Bienstock family is looking for a $250 million valuation, they also say that its Net Publishers' Share (NPS), or gross profit, has averaged about $15 million over the last few years. That would imply a valuation of 16.7 times NPS. Top catalogs usually can command as much as 12 times NPS, which implies a $180 million valuation -- though one filled with iconic songs like Carlin America might be able to realize 14 times NPS, some sources concede, which implies a $210 million valuation.
Still, some financial executives say a 16 times NPS multiple might not be out of the ballpark for a catalog with so many classics, though others say its probably a stretch. That's because those executives wonder how many of the key tracks are at risk of slipping into the public domain after their copyrights expire -- the life of the creator plus 70 years -- or how many songs in the catalog are at risk of copyright termination and reversion -- 56 years for songs written before 1978; 35 years for songs written after. The answers to those questions would likely impact the final pricing determination, they say.
This marks the second big music publishing catalog that's gone up for sale recently. Two weeks ago, Billboard reported that ole's catalog was up for sale; it has about $57 million in NPS, and the owners are seeking somewhere between $650 million and $800 million, a multiple between 11.5 and 14 NPS.
A Carlin America company spokesman was unavailable for comment.