How Michael Jackson Bought The Music Rights Of The Beatles

Michael Jackson

Getty Images/ Dave Hogan/Stringer has published an interesting story explaining how it was that [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Michael Jackson[/lastfm] came to own 251[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Beatles[/lastfm] songs before the age of 30.

Jackson wasn’t the only one interested in the deal. Infact, another party offered more money for the music rights but Jackson and his lawyer, John Branca, spiced up the deal offering the seller,  Holmes à Court, an MJ benefit concert for his favorite charity and a lifetime of income from the Beatles’ classic, “Penny Lane,” for his daughter Penelope.

This story incorporates another interesting story and that is how The Beatles lost the rights to their own music in the first place. How it went down according to

Why the Beatles didn’t own their catalogue in the first place was unfortunate. Seeking to thwart the British tax collector, John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the 1960s formed Northern Songs, a public company, as the repository for the songs they wrote. The move backfired in 1969 when impresario Sir Lew Grade bought control of it on the open market through one of his companies, ATV Music. Seventeen years later, Australian Robert Holmes à Court acquired Grade’s crumbling entertainment empire.

And, inevitably, Holmes à Court, a notable among the era’s unsentimental raiders and plunderers of corporations, would put all or parts of it, including the Beatles, on the auction block.

In September 1984, Branca alerted Jackson, mentioning that ATV, a name the entertainer didn’t even recognize, was available. “It includes a few things you might be interested in,” Branca had teased Jackson, according to a 1985 report in the Los Angeles Times. “Northern Songs … Yeah, Mike … the Beatles.”

[photogallerylink id=15246 align=left]Jackson bought The Beatles catalog for $47.5 million in 1985.  Today, according to the New York Times, the catalog is part of a larger collection of songs worth more than $1 billion, and owned in partnership with Sony.


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