EMI begins back catalog negotiations with rival labels to stave off debt default

Earlier this month, we told you that EMI, one of the big four record labels and a company with a library including everyone from Elvis Presley to Queen to Pink Floyd and other musical luminaries, was about to be divvied up like so much Christmas ham by private equity firm KKR and Warner Bros. While no deal has been set, the end goal is for KKR to take over music publishing arm and Warner to get the recorded music division, all in the hopes that EMI’s owner since 2007, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. , can avoid defaulting on their debt to Citigroup. But the old beast may still have life in her, as the label has recently been out attempting to license its music to various North American rivals.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Terra Firma is offering a five-year licensing deal to the likes of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group,  the aforementioned Warner Bros. and others. Such a deal might net the company $150.1 million per year. As of now, the company has until June 14th to raise the money before the label goes to the control of Citigroup. Via The Times, Guy Hands, the head of Terra Firma, said if the company can raise $541.2 million, it should be enough to keep EMI together until their $4.3 billion debt matures in 2014.

As of now, any agreement would be for the back catalog and the recordings, as the publishing arm is owned and operated individually. If any of the rival labels do agree to the deal, it would mean EMI would have less of an influence in the U.S., although it can still sign American acts. Further complicating the issue is that while the label doesn’t need the bands’ permission to do what they please with their recordings, larger acts (like Pink Floyd has done recently) can always take their catalog elsewhere.

As always, we’ll keep you updated.


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