The Michael Jackson estate is in the process of selling half of its interests in the legendary singer’s music catalog in a deal in the $800 million-$900 million range, three sources confirm to Variety. While details are unclear, sources say that Sony and a possible financial partner are negotiating to acquire 50% of the estate’s interests in Jackson’s publishing, recorded-music revenues, the “MJ: The Musical” Broadway show and the upcoming biopic “Michael,” and possibly more assets.
The package would be the biggest deal to date in the still-booming music catalog market.
A financial source tells Variety that Primary Wave Music already owns a stake in Jackson’s publishing catalog, although details are unclear.
Reps for the Jackson estate, co-executors John Branca and John McClain, Sony and Primary Wave declined Variety’s multiple requests for comment.
Sony has been involved in some of the biggest previous known catalog deals: It acquired Bruce Springsteen’s publishing and recorded-music catalogs for a combined price sources said was around $600 million. Sources say the company also paid $150 million-$200 million for Bob Dylan’s rights to his recorded-music catalog, after seeing the legendary songwriter sell the rights to his publishing to Universal Music for nearly $400 million. Such blockbuster deals have become routine in recent years — the three core members of Genesis sold a catalog package to Concord for $300 million — but if the information is accurate, the Jackson deal is the biggest to date by far.
Sources would not confirm the financial partner in the deal, and it remains unclear whether one is definitely involved, but likely suspects would include Eldridge Industries, which partnered with Sony on the Springsteen catalog deal and also acquired the Killers’ pre-2020 publishing catalog, and Shamrock, which recently partnered with Universal on a $200 million-plus catalog acquisition from Dr. Dre and in 2020 acquired the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums from a consortium led by Scooter Braun.
Sony and its predecessor CBS were the sole home for Jackson’s recorded-music catalog for his entire solo career and the latter years of his career with the Jackson 5. The singer died in 2009 at the age of 50; the formidable entertainment interests of his estate have been handled with a firm hand by Branca, his longtime attorney, and co-executor John McClain.
Jackson’s recorded-music catalog is one of most lucrative in history — his 1982 “Thriller” album alone is one of the two biggest sellers of all time and was the first album to be certified 30-times platinum, although such figures have become muddled in the streaming age.
In 2016 Sony Corp. reached a $750 million agreement with the estate to acquire the Jackson estate’s 50% stake in their joint venture, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which they had formed in 1995. In 2018 Sony revealed in an earnings report that as part of its $2.3 billion acquisition of EMI Music Publishing, it had acquired the Jackson estate’s 25.1% stake in that company for $287.5 million.
At the end of that years-long process, which had begun six years earlier but was not cleared by the European Union until 2018, EMI and Sony/ATV were fully owned by Sony, making it sole owner of the world’s largest music publishing company.