What a Run: Merck Mercuriadis Announces Hipgnosis Exit, Plans to Step Away ‘Upon Closing’ of Blackstone’s Acquisition

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Ahead of key shareholder votes on Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s proposed sale to Blackstone, Hipgnosis Song Management founder and chairman Merck Mercuriadis has announced plans to step away from the company.

Hipgnosis reached out with word of the noteworthy development this morning, just days before the songs fund’s investors will decide whether to approve a proposed sale to Blackstone’s Lyra Bidco.

Especially given these investors’ well-documented qualms with Hipgnosis management – HSF’s continuation was overwhelmingly shot down last year, as many know – it goes without saying that the announcement’s timing doesn’t appear coincidental.

Running with the point, Merck Mercuriadis’ full-scale departure (the veteran music manager transitioned from HSM’s CEO to chairman back in February) “will be effective upon closing of the proposed acquisition” with Blackstone, the involved parties spelled out.

The relevant votes are scheduled to take place six days from today. Despite the apparent possibility that hedge funds will look to block the transaction in an effort to draw a higher sale price, that means Mercuriadis, the face of Hipgnosis, could cease being part of the business in less than one week.

Predictably, Mercuriadis himself had little to say about the actual circumstances surrounding his departure announcement. Instead, he used approximately 200 words to strike an optimistic tone when discussing Hipgnosis’ future.

“Six years after founding HSM,” Mercuriadis said in part, “I have decided that now is the right time for me to step back from my role as Chairman. This is a timely opportunity for me to undertake a strategic shift of focus, and to spend more time advocating on behalf of songwriters to ensure that they are properly compensated for their work.”

From there, the 60-year-old touted the “outstanding catalogue of rights” owned by the Hipgnosis entities and drove home the plans to continue advocating for songwriters.

“As Hipgnosis Songs Fund enters the next phase of its development,” he concluded, “now is the right time to hand the reins to a trusted and highly capable team. I am excited about the company’s future and its ongoing success with the support of Blackstone.”

Meanwhile, Ben Katovsky is evidently remaining aboard as HSM’s CEO. In a statement of his own, the exec praised Mercuriadis’ “instrumental” role in building out Hipgnosis.

“Merck’s vision and passion in creating Hipgnosis,” communicated Katovsky, “assembling an extraordinary portfolio of iconic songs and campaigning for songwriters to be fairly paid has been instrumental in Hipgnosis’ journey to date.

“I am grateful for his support and the trust that has been placed in me and the HSM team to build on his passion. We remain committed to bringing the iconic songs in our care to new audiences and ensuring that they enjoy the on-going success and attention they so richly deserve,” he finished.

Though it perhaps goes without saying, all eyes are on the mentioned votes, which were significant before the Mercuriadis bombshell but now carry extra weight. Closer to the present, the news didn’t drive an immediate shift in HSF’s stock price, which was still hovering around $1.30 per share at the time of this writing.