Believe CEO Denies Reports Of Sony Buy-Out

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Denis Ladegaillerie, CEO of French distribution and label services company Believe Group, has denied reports that the business is about to be acquired by Sony Music.

News about the deal first surfaced in Nikkei Asian Review on Saturday when the English-language business journal reported that talks between the two parties were in their final stages, with Sony set to acquire a majority stake for between $355 million and $444 million (40 billion – 50 billion Yen).

Speaking exclusively to Billboard, Ladegaillerie says that any reports that “we have concluded a deal with Sony to sell Believe are absolutely not true.”

Instead, Ladegaillerie says, the Paris-based company is looking to grow its operations and is actively exploring funding options, including public listing and private equity, to enable a number of acquisitions.

“In parallel to that process we are having selected strategic discussions with players that have approached us about strategic investments or full acquisition along the way,” he states.

“Our focus is on how do we grow and build the business,” continues the CEO. “In that regard, we are having discussions with a handful of strategic players that understand the changing dynamics in the artist and label services market, share our business philosophy - serving artists and labels in a way that’s transparent, global and fair – and where we see a strong strategic fit to better serve artists and labels.”

However, Ladegaillerie does say that if the right offer came along for the company, from the right strategic partner, the shareholders of Believe would consider it.   

“If there is one player where we think it makes sense, where we can turbo charge what we’re doing now and much better serve artists and labels tomorrow, on the same business model and philosophy that we’re doing today then, yes, we’ll ask ourselves that question. Are we now in a short term future, pure sale process? No.” 

Ladegaillerie would not confirm or deny if Sony was one of the companies that Believe had been in talks with. Sony Music did not respond to requests for comment when contacted by Billboard.

Founded in 2005, Believe has 32 offices spread across 16 territories, including the U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada and Southeast Asia, and works with around 12,000 artists and labels, providing a suite of distribution and label services such as marketing, synchronization, neighboring rights and project management.

Independent label partners includes Kitsune, Brownswood Recordings, Tru Thoughts, Chinese Man Records and Scorpio Music, while the company also has its own in-house label imprint Believe Recordings, which rebranded as AllPoints earlier this year.

In 2015, Believe acquired the largely U.S.-based digital distribution company TuneCore, although the two organizations remain operationally separate. Since launching in 2006, TuneCore says its artists have generated close to $1 billion in collective earnings.  

2015 also saw Believe secure $60 million investment from Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) and XAnge to fund international expansion. In 2016, it acquired French indie label Naïve in a deal estimated at around €10 million ($11.5 million).

Believe Group is projected to make around $250 million in sales this year.