Martin Bandier, the executive who built EMI’s music publishing business into the industry’s largest, has jumped to Sony/ATV, positioning the owner of the Beatles catalogue to become a more aggressive bidder for other such assets.
His move comes weeks after Warner Music made a renewed approach for EMI. If it succeeds, Warner would be forced to sell all or most of one of the two publishing arms to satisfy regulators, providing Mr Bandier with an opportunity to transform the Sony/ATV catalogue.
Sony had shown little appetite for content deals since putting its recorded music company into a joint venture with Bertelsmann. On Tuesday, however, Sir Howard Stringer, Sony’s chairman, said the appointment sent “a strong signal about how serious we are about music publishing”.
Sony/ATV is a 50:50 joint venture between the Japanese electronics group and Michael Jackson, the pop star. Mr Bandier, who will become chairman and chief executive, will also invest an undisclosed amount in the company, which will allow him to share in the group’s future growth.
Sony’s push to recruit Mr Bandier is another indication of the appeal of music publishing at a time when the record industry is suffering a slump in CD sales.
Music publishers have remained buoyant by collecting small royalties when their songs are used in films, mobile phone ringtones, advertisements and other outlets. Universal Music paid $2.1bn for BMG’s music publishing arm.
Mr Bandier said he could not comment on EMI for legal reasons, but added: “Sony ATV is in the music publishing business and while I’m there, we’d look at anything that made economic sense.”
Other possible acquisitions could include Famous Music Publishing, which Viacom recently said it would consider selling, and Mr Jackson’s share of Sony/ATV.
The industry has been rife with speculation about Mr Bandier’s next move. Before joining Sony/ATV, he held talks with Edgar Bronfman, Warner’s chief executive, and met several private equity firms interested in EMI and its publishing assets.
Mr Bandier said he decided to join Sony/ATV because of the opportunity to grow the business, which ranks fourth by market share and includes hits from the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
People close to Mr Bandier said he was enticed by the fact that Sony/ATV does not report to a larger recorded music division since Sony held it out of Sony Music’s merger with BMG.
Separately, Warner Music’s move to secure support from independent labels for an EMI deal was undermined on Tuesday when lawyers for Ministry of Sound demanded that the UK’s Association of Independent Music disclose correspondence about the deal between Warner and Impala, the independents’ European lobby group.