SJ Berwin and Herbies act on Universal music selloff

SJ Berwin and Herbert Smith have landed roles advising on the disposal of European music publishing catalogues that include tracks from the likes of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

Universal Music Group’s sale of the 19 and Zomba labels’ catalogues was a requirement of the competition agreement struck with the European Commission to allow Universal to buy BMG Music Publishing last year.

The acquisition also represents a first step into the music publishing sector for the buyer, Netherlands-based pension fund ABP, which manages the pensions of all Dutch state employees.

For this acquisition and for further investments in music publishing, ABP brought on board independent music publisher CP Masters to manage the catalogues.

ABP and CP Masters have created a new publishing company named Imagem Music. Universal will publish the catalogues outside Europe, while Imagem will publish the Zomba US catalogue in the UK and Europe.

SJ Berwin advised Universal, led by corporate partners Will Holder and Rob Day, with EU and competition partner Stephen Kon advising on compliance with the commitments agreed by the European Commission.

Universal has a 15-year relationship with SJ Berwin on IP work, and this is the fourth time the firm has provided corporate advice since the £1.63bn acquisition of BMG Music Publishing in September 2006.

A Herbert Smith team led by corporate partners James Milne and Vanessa Holder advised ABP after a referral from partner Alfred Metzelaar at Dutch alliance firm Stibbe.