Fans may have called him the “King of Pop,” but it turns out Michael Jackson might also have been the king of investments.
Jackson’s estate struck a history-making $750 million deal last week with Sony Corp. for the sale of the late singer’s 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture he formed with the entertainment and electronics empire back in 1995.
“This deal represents the biggest single-deal/single-year payday for any musician in history,” said Zack O’Malley Greenburg, music industry senior editor at Forbes and author of the book “Michael Jackson Inc.” “It also serves as a reminder of Jackson’s very underrated business savvy.”
Jackson, who died in 2009 at the age of 50 of an accidental overdose of medications he took to help him sleep, purchased ATV’s 4,000-song catalog in 1985 for a reported $47.5 million, prompting John Branca, attorney and co-executor for the late entertainer’s estate, to call it “one of the smartest investments in music history” in a statement last week.
The catalog includes 200 of the Beatles’ most famous tunes – including “Yesterday,” “Come Together” and “Hey Jude” – as well as songs by Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.
Sony exercised a buy-sell option that was part of its original agreement with Jackson that allowed one side to name a price and the other party to choose whether to buy or sell at that number. The deal was triggered in part by Sony’s effort to simplify its ability to license its music for films and other projects. Both sides considered a buyout, but the estate believed accepting Sony’s offer “was in the best interest of Michael’s children,” it said in a statement.
Branca and Sony both declined to comment.
“Sony is obviously a much larger entity than the Jackson estate, and therefore one with easier access to such vast sums,” said Greenburg.
Jackson – savvy as he might have been to invest in ATV – was also saddled with debt, and his estate said it would use as much as $500 million to retire outstanding debt. The balance is likely to be reinvested.
“This transaction allows the Estate to diversify assets which, to date, have been highly concentrated in music intellectual property,” it said in a statement.
In addition to music licensing, Branca and co-executor John McClain have overseen postdeath projects featuring Jackson, including “This Is It,” a 2009 behind-the-scenes documentary that generated more than $500 million in revenue, making it the largest-grossing concert film in history.
Earlier this year, the estate was behind the documentary “Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off the Wall,” which became Showtime’s most-watched music documentary ever.
Meanwhile, the singer’s most popular album, “Thriller,” continues to be a huge seller and last year passed the 100 million mark in worldwide sales.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.