Sony Completes Acquisition of Michael Jackson Estate's Share of EMI Music Publishing

Greg Allen/Retna Ltd./Shutterstock
Michael Jackson performs on the final night of his 1988-1989 Tour at Sports Arena Exposition Park on Jan. 27 1989 in Los Angeles.

In announcing its financial results, the Sony Corp. revealed that it had acquired Michael Jackson’s estate share of EMI Music Publishing, paying it a total of $287.5 million.    

That was apparently the first step in completing its pending acquisition of EMI Music Publishing from a consortium of investors, which still has to be vetted by governmental regulatory agencies before the deal can proceed. Sony is still in the process of filing the paper work for the proposed acquisition, according to sources, so the process of scrutinizing the deals impact on potential anti-trust issues has yet to begin, they say.   

As it is, Sony has agreed to pay $2.3 billion to acquire EMI, as well as assume EMI’s debt of $1.359 billion. With Sony and Jackson’s share valued at $1.091 billion that gives EMI Music Publishing a valuation of $4.75 billion.   

The Jackson estate held a 9.84% interest in EMI; or a 25.1% stake of the piece owned by Sony and the Jackson estate, which means that without putting up any money in the deal, by virtue of its stake in Sony/ATV, the Jackson estate received $287.5 million, not a bad return on a zero dollar investment.     

Prior to this deal and before EMI Music Publishing came up for sale, the Jackson estate had sold its 50 percent share of Sony/ATV in 2016 and received $750 million in cash, which means that the Jackson estate has made over $1 billion since it has unwound its interest in those publishing assets.

While the Jackson estate, advised by Shot Tower Capitol, is overseen by two co-executors -- music industry executive John McClain and lawyer John Branca -- it is the latter, a partner in the law firm of Ziffren Brittenham LLP, who likely gets credit for making the shrewd publishing deals on behalf of the estate.

When Sony completes its acquisition -- if it gets the regulatory approval that is; the buyout of the Jackson estate didn't require it but the buyout of the other 60 percent does -- EMI Music Publishing will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corp, and will likely be legally merged into Sony/ATV, as it functionally already is.