Music Publisher Kobalt to Explore a Potential Sale

Kobalt Music Group Ltd., one of the biggest music-publishing companies in the world, is working with advisers to explore strategic options including a potential sale, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The company, also one of the largest independent music businesses, could be valued at more than $1 billion, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Kobalt could attract interest from music producers such as Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, as well as private equity and technology buyers, the people said. Music copyrights have grown in value with the renaissance of recorded music and online listening.

The plans aren’t final and the company could opt to raise additional capital, one of the people said.

“We’ve always had great interest in the company,” Kobalt said in an email. “We’re always evaluating the best capital structure for the business to make sure we have the right capital partners to continue to build and grow the world’s best independent company for artists and songwriters.”

Kobalt represents more than 25,000 songwriters, 600 publishers, and 20,000 independent artists, including Childish Gambino, Lorde and the estate of Elvis Presley.

The company, whose investors include Hearst Entertainment and Michael Dell’s MSD Capital LP, was valued at $775 million in a funding round in May 2017. Kobalt owns music-publishing rights and administers them for songwriters. It also operates AWAL, an independent distribution company, and manages a fund that owns recordings.

Kobalt was founded in 2000 by Willard Ahdritz on the premise that technology could put more ownership and power in the hands of artists. He promised them transparency and data on the use of their music. The company has an app to help songwriters track their royalties. It was founded just as the internet and piracy began cannibalizing the music industry’s primary source of sales, the CD.

Ahdritz became chairman of the company in January and was succeeded as chief executive officer by Laurent Hubert, who has been with the company since 2016.

— With assistance by Gillian Tan

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