We've Got Hollywood Covered

Sony Had ‘Top Secret’ Plan to Sell Music Publishing Division Including Beatles Rights

Michael Jackson’s estate, which owns the Fab Four’s publishing, is part of a Sony Corp. partnership

Sony had secretly planned to sell off its music publishing division made up of Sony/ATV Music Publishing and EMI Music Publishing, according to leaked emails revealed as part of the massive Sony hack.

That side of its business is commonly known for being in a partnership with Michael Jackson’s estate, which famously owns the publishing rights to The Beatles music.

Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Michael Lynton shepherded the “top secret” plan, alongside Sony Corp. of America President Nicole Seligman and U.S. Chief Financial Officer Steve Kober, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The publication posted snippets of leaked emails surrounding the plan, including this one from Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida:

“I’d like to hear your thoughts on the Music Publishing business, which has a rather complex capital and governance structure and is impacted by the market shift to streaming,” Yoshida wrote to his boss, CEO Kazuo Hirai, and Lynton on Oct. 3.

A presentation for a potential sale of Sony’s publishing arm was included in a planning document sent to at least six Sony executives, according to a Nov. 21 e-mail.

“We are very surprised that the attached listing includes the comment about the sale of Sony/ATV,” Kober wrote back. “As you know quite well, this is a top-secret project that is being handled by me working directly with Michael and Nicole.”

Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony and the King of Pop, was formed in 1995. In 2012, Sony purchased EMI Music Publishing for $2.2 billion. Investors included Jackson’s estate, Blackstone Group’s GSO Capital Partners LP, Geffen and Mubadala Development Co., which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government.

Combined, Sony/ATV and EMI are the world’s largest music publishing business.

Sony’s computer systems were infiltrated recently in a targeted protest of its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview,” where the two plan to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The U.S. government has pinned the blame for the cyberattack on North Korea.

After initially pulling the Christmas Day release, Sony reconsidered and is putting the movie out in limited release and VOD, which TheWrap reported exclusively on Tuesday.