The Michael Jackson estate is in negotiations to sell half of its stake in the late singer's music catalog. The sale is expected to be worth between $800 million and $900 million, with Sony and a potential financial partner in talks to acquire 50% of the estate's interests in Jackson's publishing, recorded-music revenues, the "MJ: The Musical" Broadway show, the upcoming biopic "Michael" and possibly more assets.
This potential deal would be the biggest in the music catalog market to date. According to a financial source, Primary Wave Music already owns a stake in Jackson's publishing catalog, but details are unclear. Representatives from the Jackson estate, Sony, and Primary Wave declined to comment on the matter when reached out by Variety.
Sony has been involved in some of the biggest known catalog deals in the past. It acquired Bruce Springsteen's publishing and recorded-music catalogs for a reported combined price of $600 million. The company is also said to have paid between $150 million and $200 million for Bob Dylan's recorded-music catalog rights. These large deals have become more common in recent years, with Genesis selling a catalog package to Concord for $300 million. However, if the information is accurate, the Jackson deal would be the biggest of its kind to date.
The identity of the financial partner in the deal remains unknown and it is unclear whether one is involved. Potential candidates include Eldridge Industries, which partnered with Sony on the Springsteen catalog deal and acquired the Killers' pre-2020 publishing catalog, and Shamrock, which recently partnered with Universal on a catalog acquisition from Dr. Dre and acquired the rights to Taylor Swift's first six albums in 2020.
Sony and its predecessor CBS were the sole home for Jackson's recorded-music catalog throughout his solo career and the latter years of his career with the Jackson 5. After Jackson's death in 2009, his estate's entertainment interests have been managed by co-executors John Branca and John McClain.
Jackson's recorded-music catalog is one of the most profitable in history, with his 1982 album "Thriller" being one of the two best-selling albums of all time and the first to be certified 30-times platinum. These figures have become less clear in the era of streaming.
In 2016, Sony Corp. reached a $750 million agreement with the Jackson estate to acquire its 50% stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing joint venture, which was formed in 1995. In 2018, Sony revealed in an earnings report that as part of its $2.3 billion acquisition of EMI Music Publishing, it had acquired the Jackson estate's 25.1% stake in the company for $287.5 million. This process, which had begun six years earlier, resulted in Sony becoming the sole owner of the world's largest music publishing company through EMI and Sony/ATV.