Universal Music Group Reportedly Tees Up $1 Billion+ Queen Catalog Acquisition

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Photo Credit: Carl Lender / CC by 3.0

Universal Music Group (UMG) is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire Queen’s catalog for north of $1 billion.  

The potential song-rights sale (as well as its astonishing price tag) just recently came to light in a brief piece from CNN, which cited an anonymous source with knowledge of the discussions. Per said source, negotiations between Universal Music Group and Disney Music Group are “‘well underway,’” and the sizable transaction is “‘expected to close within one month.’”

Predictably, neither Universal Music nor Disney Music (which inked a far-reaching deal with Queen back in 1990) had commented publicly on the reported song-rights selloff at the time of this writing. But the major label has spearheaded massive music-IP investments in the past, among them a reportedly $200 million play for Dr. Dre’s catalog, a deal for Neil Diamond’s body of work, and, specifically via UMPG, a reportedly $300 million buyout of Sting’s catalog.

Though song-rights sales (and additional investor capital) have continued to pour in through 2023’s initial five months – including the aforementioned Dr. Dre catalog deal and, also in January, Justin Bieber’s reportedly $200 million agreement with Hipgnosis – runaway valuations have become generally less common.

Meanwhile, rising rates and other economic factors appear to have impacted the value of and interest behind certain catalogs. And as always, comments from anonymous sources should be taken with a grain of salt.

On the former front, Warner Bros. Discovery in April reportedly abandoned plans to offload its music library after receiving lower-than-expected offers for the IP in question. Execs had been searching for a cool $2 billion windfall, but ultimately, high-end bids had come in at around $1.3 billion, according to reports.

At the intersection of potentially declining catalog valuations and unreliable details from ostensibly well-informed anonymous sources, several rumored sales have yet to close. Last year, for instance, purportedly in-the-know parties signaled that Pink Floyd’s catalog had all but sold for a cool $500 million.

Subsequently, however, it emerged that disagreements between the group’s long-feuding members – on top of questions about exactly which rights would be included – had been disrupting negotiations. With over a year having now passed since the possible transaction entered the media spotlight, evidence suggests that there’s a remote chance of the deal happening.

More recently, anonymous sources in February indicated that the Michael Jackson estate was looking to sell a 50 percent interest in the King of Pop’s catalog for upwards of $900 million – valuing the IP at a staggering $1.8 billion total. While a deal may still wrap, almost four months have passed without an update (let alone a formal announcement) of any kind.