How Did Michael Jackson Buy The Beatles Publishing Catalog?

How Did Michael Jackson Buy The Beatles Publishing Catalog?

In an article with back in February, publishing lawyer John Branca explained how his client, Michael Jackson, came to purchase the Beatles publishing catalog.  It's actually not as nasty as past stories have suggested (mainly that Michael went behind Paul McCartney's back).  At least, that's the way Branca explains it.  The details are below:

How and when did you become involved with Michael Jackson, and how did that relationship evolve?

Michael and I started working together in January of 1980. It was just after the release of Off the Wall and he had just turned 21. Over time, it evolved to the point where, on the Thriller album, I was able to assist him on many projects, including making the “Thriller” video and buying the Beatles catalog, among other things.

In retrospect, it’s mind-boggling that the Beatles’ catalog was even on the block.

Back in the 1960s, The Beatles had participated in a corporate structure to minimize taxes that resulted in them losing control of their copyrights. Over the years, those copyrights were bought and sold and, ultimately, were owned by ATV, which was an English company controlled by an Australian millionaire named Robert Holmes à Court. When he decided to sell the catalog, it was marketed widely, and when I found out it was for sale, Michael and I talked about it We were, at that time, embarking on a campaign to purchase copyrights. We had already bought the Sly and the Family Stone catalog, for example. Michael had me check with both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono to see if they were bidding and they were not, so we went after it, and we ultimately got it.

Nice one. What did you pay for that?

$47,500,000, and we sold off Bruton Music, a background music library, to Clive Calder for about $6 million, so Michael’s net price was $41,500,000. That was in 1985. We merged it with Sony in 1995, creating Sony/ATV Music, which Michael owns half of. Then, last year, I was fortunate enough to represent and consult Sony and Marty Bandier in the acquisition of EMI Music Publishing, which created the biggest music publishing conglomerate in history.

Was that a complicated set of maneuvers?

It was very complicated. A lot of credit goes to Rob Wiesenthal, as well as Marty Bandier. Rob was one of the financial engineers of that transaction.