The European Union’s antitrust regulators will rule within weeks over whether Sony is permitted to buy full control of Sony/ATV from the Michael Jackson Estate.
According to a new filing on the European Commission’s official site, the EU’s competition watchers will deliver their verdict on the deal by August 1.
Sony agreed to buy the Jackson Estate’s 50% stake in Sony/ATV for $750m earlier this year – a commercial pact signed and announced in March.
However, the acquisition is now being challenged by Warner Music Group and independent collective IMPALA in Europe.
Both of these parties are telling EU antitrust figures that the deal risks placing a market-distorting level of power in the hands of Sony – particularly when its ownership of the world’s second biggest record company is taken into consideration.
History suggests the outcome won’t necessarily be a walk in the park for Sony.
Back in 2012, both Warner and IMPALA lobbied against Universal Music Group’s £1.2bn ($1.9bn) acquisition of EMI Music in the EU.
Although the deal was ultimately given the green light, UMG faced some disappointing conditions in Europe – most notably, being forced to sell Parlophone Label Group.
PLG, the hub for an enviable catalogue containing classics from the likes of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Blur, Kate Bush and Coldplay, was subsequently sold to… Warner Music Group for £487m ($740m).
In turn, Warner agreed to divest over $200m’s worth of assets to the independent sector – a process that is still ongoing.
Makes you wonder: will the ‘pincer movement’ of WMG and the indies once again bear fruit when it comes to troubling Sony/ATV’s $750m deal with the Jackson Estate?
With Universal having bought the recorded assets of EMI, it was left to Sony/ATV (in a consortium alongside the Jackson estate, plus Mubadala and others) to purchase EMI Music Publishing in 2012.
However, this $2.2bn deal didn’t escape the EC’s scrutiny unscathed.
In order to get its EMI purchase cleared in Europe, Sony/ATV was forced to sell on assets such as Virgin Music and Famous UK Music Publishing – both snapped up by rival BMG.
The search giant recently raised interest in buying its way into the world’s biggest music publisher.
Sony flat out rejected its approach – but might not get such a definitive say-so in who ends up buying any enforced divestments in Europe.Music Business Worldwide