Sony has agreed to buy half of Michael Jackson‘s library from his estate, in what is possibly the biggest deal ever for a single musician’s work, according to two individuals familiar with the matter.
The transaction, which has been rumored in the music business for months, is supposed to include Sony obtaining a 50% share in Jackson’s recorded music and composition archives.
This includes not just the estate’s portion of megahits like “Beat It” and “Bad,” but also the music publishing assets that comprise Jackson’s Mijac library, including songs created by Sly Stone and tracks made famous by musicians such as Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis.
According to the two persons, Jackson’s assets are valued at $1.2 billion or more. They were granted anonymity because they were not permitted to talk publicly about the transaction.
Nonetheless, it excludes some of the estate’s holdings in other valuable Jackson-related enterprises, such as the Broadway musical “MJ,” Cirque du Soleil’s Jackson-themed events, and a biography in the works starring Jaafar Jackson, the son of Jackson’s brother Jermaine.
The acquisition is supposed to give the estate a large amount of influence over the catalog. This contrasts with several other recent blockbuster catalog deals, such as those with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Simon.
While those transactions may include precisely negotiated limitations for how an artist’s work might be used in the future, such as in advertisements or political endorsements, they often transfer song management to a buyer.
Representatives for Sony and the Jackson estate declined to comment on the transaction, which was originally reported by Billboard.
When queried about the transaction, John Branca, Jackson’s former entertainment lawyer and co-executor of his estate, stated: “As we have always maintained, we would never give up management or control of Michael Jackson’s assets.”
Primary Wave, a music firm that holds a minority share in Jackson’s music publishing holdings, did not participate in the deal; a spokeswoman declined to comment.
The contract is mostly an affirmation of Jackson’s persistent star power and the enduring worldwide popularity of his music, 15 years after his death at the age of 50 in 2009, on the eve of a return concert series in London.
That popularity has not waned in the face of difficulties such as “Leaving Neverland,” a two-part documentary shown by HBO in 2019 in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, described years of sexual abuse by Jackson as youngsters.
The Jackson estate labeled the film a “tabloid character assassination” and said that Robson and Safechuck had previously denied under oath that any abuse occurred; Robson was a key witness in Jackson’s molestation trial in 2005, in which Jackson was acquitted.
Branca stated that the film influenced the estate’s operations. However, Jackson remains extremely popular with audiences. Every Halloween, the streaming of the song “Thriller” increases. And “MJ,” the musical based on Jackson’s life, launched two years ago and has made $172 million in New York, according to the Broadway League; the play is also traveling in the United States and will be released in three other countries.
Jackson was long affiliated with Sony and its Epic label, which issued his megaselling solo albums “Thriller” and “Bad,” though he eventually regained control of his recordings.
In 2016, Sony paid $750 million to acquire the Jackson estate’s part of Sony/ATV, the music publishing behemoth. Jackson paid $41.5 million in 1985 for ATV, a forerunner to that business whose crown gem was possession of most Beatles songs.