Sony considering sale of unit that owns Beatles songs

60s English rock band The Beatles. -- PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC
60s English rock band The Beatles. -- PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp has been considering a sale of its Sony/ATV Music Publishing unit, which owns the rights to most of the Beatles' songs, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the company's leaked internal emails.

The unit, which Sony owns jointly with deceased pop star Michael Jackson's estate, is estimated to be worth US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion) to US$2 billion, the Journal said.

Sony/ATV Music declined to comment on the report.

It is not clear if Sony will sell its stake in the unit or the entire business will be put on the block, the Journal said.

The leaked documents do not indicate an expected price and the timing of a potential sale, the newspaper said.

Sony is still reeling from the disclosures in documents released by computer hackers, which have exposed internal discussions key to the company's future to public scrutiny.

According to Bloomberg, Sony's deliberations included a partnership with Jackson's estate, as recently as last month.

It reported that Sony Entertainment chief executive officer Michael Lynton, Sony Corp of America president Nicole Seligman and their United States chief financial officer Steve Kober were handling the secret plan, according to an Nov 21 e-mail from Kober.

Sony was considering the sale, after concluding that the business had few growth prospects.

Sony's chief financial officer Kenichiro Yoshida raised questions about the future of music publishing in an Oct 3 e-mail to his boss, chief executive Kazuo Hirai, and Lynton, according to messages released by the hackers.

The Sony-Jackson joint venture was set up in 1995 after the singer bought ATV 10 years earlier.