Sony has agreed to buy half of Michael Jackson’s catalog from the star’s estate, in what is likely to be the richest transaction ever for a single musician’s work, according to two people briefed on the deal.
The deal, which has been rumored in the music industry for months, reportedly involves Sony acquiring a 50 percent stake in Jackson’s recorded music and songwriting catalogs. This includes not only the wealth of megahits like “Beat It” and “Bad,” but also the music publishing assets that are part of Jackson’s Mijac catalog, among them songs written by Sly Stone and songs made famous by artists like Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The deal reportedly values Jackson’s assets at $1.2 billion or more, according to two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. However, it leaves off the table some of the property’s interests in other lucrative Jackson-related businesses, such as the Broadway musical “MJ,” Cirque du Soleil’s Jackson-themed shows and a biopic in the works that will star Jaafar Jackson. , a son of Jackson’s brother Jermaine.
The transaction reportedly leaves the property with a significant degree of control over the catalog. This contrasts with many other film catalog deals in recent years, such as those with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. While these sales sometimes include well-negotiated parameters of how an artist’s work can be used in the future—say, in advertising or political endorsements—they generally hand over the management of the songs to a buyer.
Representatives for Sony and Jackson’s estate declined to comment on the deal, which was first reported by Billboard. When asked about news of the settlement, John Branca, who was Jackson’s entertainment lawyer in life and has been the co-executor of Jackson’s estate, said: “As we have always said, we would never relinquish management or control of Michael Jackson. assets.”
Primary Wave, a music company that owns a minority stake in Jackson’s music publishing interests, was not a party to the transaction; A representative for Primary Wave declined to comment.
In large part, the deal is an endorsement of Jackson’s continued star power and the enduring global appeal of his music, 15 years after his death in 2009 at the age of 50, on the eve of a series of comeback concerts in London.
That appeal hasn’t diminished in the face of challenges like “Leaving Neverland,” a two-part documentary broadcast by HBO in 2019 in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, recounted what they said were years of sexual abuse by Jackson when they were children. Jackson’s estate called the film “tabloid character assassination” and said Robson and Safechuck had previously denied under oath that any abuse had occurred; Robson was a star witness in Jackson’s 2005 molestation trial, in which Jackson was acquitted.
After the release of this film, Branca said it had an impact on the property business. But Jackson remains extremely popular with audiences. Every Halloween, the currents of the “Thriller” song rise. And “MJ,” the musical based on Jackson’s life, opened two years ago and has earned $172 million in New York, according to the Broadway League; The show also has a US touring production on the road and three international versions coming up.
Jackson was long associated with Sony and its label Epic, which released his mega-selling solo albums such as “Thriller” and “Bad”, although Jackson later regained the rights to his recordings.
In 2016, Sony paid $750 million to buy the Sony/ATV half of Jackson’s fortune, the music publishing giant. In 1985, Jackson had bought ATV, a predecessor of that company – whose crown jewel was control of most of the Beatles’ songs – for $41.5 million.