Classical music publisher Boosey & Hawkes has been sold for about £126 million ($248.3 million) to Imagem Music, the music publishing fund of CP Masters and Dutch pension fund Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP.

Private equity investor HgCapital, the fund behind Boosey & Hawkes, announced today that it has agreed to sell the publisher to Imagem. The existing management team, led by chief executive John Minch, will be retained.

"The sale completes a successful four-year investment for HgCapital, and represents a significant return following its original acquisition of Boosey & Hawkes, then a public company, for £75 million ($131.4 million) in December 2003," HgCapital said in a statement.

Indeed, a source close to the bidding said many potential acquirers valued the catalog around £100 million ($197 million).

Over the last five years, Boosey & Hawkes' management has transformed the traditional classical music publisher into a competitive music rights group. It outsourced many non-core activities such as printing and distribution, and it developed a series of new revenue streams. In particular, it developed a strong presence in the market for music in advertising and film, where revenues are currently growing at approximately 30% per annum, according to HgCapital.

In 2003, Boosey & Hawkes made earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of approximately £3.3 million ($5.8 million); by 2007 it achieved earnings of £6.8 million ($13.6 million).

"We view this transaction as a great add-on to our recent acquisition of certain catalogs with popular music content from Universal Music Group," says Ronald Wuijster, head of strategy and research for APG Investments. "This acquisition of the largest classical music rights catalogue in the world greatly diversifies our portfolio and strengthens our position. We are committed to be a long-term investor in this space."

Boosey & Hawkes controls the rights to more than 116,000 works of music and choreography, from many of the world's most famous classical composers, including Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Benjamin Britten and Prokofieff. It also works with many of the world's most renowned living composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies, Karl Jenkins, John Adams and Steve Reich.

"Classical entertainment is enjoying tremendous growth because of the ageing of the world population," says André de Raaff, CEO of CP Masters. "Boosey & Hawkes and our other music publishing assets will be run separately; however, synergies with regard to syncs, finance, royalties and copyrights, and the Boosey & Hawkes offices in Berlin and New York, will be created immediately. "

During HgCapital ownership, Boosey & Hawkes has made six acquisitions that have moved it into new areas such as tango and jazz, including signings with composer/performers such as Wynton Marsalis.

For Imagem, the acquisition is a long-term strategic investment. The company recently acquired various music rights catalogs from Universal Music Group, such as Zomba UK, Rondor UK, 19 Music and the greatest part of the BBC catalog.