EXCLUSIVE - Simon Fuller bids for publisher Bug Music

NEW YORK Thu Sep 8, 2011 1:33am IST

Executive producer and show creator Simon Fuller arrives for the finale of American Idol in Hollywood, May 26, 2004. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson  LN/Files

Executive producer and show creator Simon Fuller arrives for the finale of American Idol in Hollywood, May 26, 2004.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson LN/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - American Idol creator Simon Fuller is among parties in the final stages of bidding for Los Angeles music publisher Bug Music, according to three people familiar with the process.

Bug, which is owned by private equity firm Spectrum Equity Investors, is expected to fetch bids starting in the high $200 millions to $300 million range, according to two of the people.

Fuller's XIX Entertainment, BMG Music and Ole Music are among second-round bidders for the publisher whose 250,000-strong catalog of songs includes Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and the Drifters hit "Under the Boardwalk."

Final bids are due by Friday.

XIX was set up by Fuller when he left CKX last year and was valued around 100 million pounds ($157 million). The company manages soccer star David Beckham, Formula One race driver Lewis Hamilton and singer Jennifer Lopez, among others. Fuller sold his former company 19 Entertainment to CKX in 2005.

Fuller, 51, is best known for creating TV music shows and managing the Spice Girls. He started his career in music publishing in the 80's, signing Madonna's hit song "Holiday" when he was 23.

Even as global recorded music sales have tumbled in recent years, song catalogs have kept or increased their value because they can earn revenue from a wider variety of licensing sources than record sales.

Financial investors like pension funds and private equity firms have been attracted by publishers' relatively stable cash flows. Ole Music, for example, is partly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. BMG Music is a joint venture of German media giant Bertelsmann and private equity firm KKR.

Earlier this year, Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik paid $3.3 billion to take control of Warner Music Group, whose assets include the music publisher Warner/Chappell.

Blavatnik is now among bidders for EMI Music's recording and publishing assets with final bids due by the end of this month, according to several sources.

Sony/ATV, a joint venture between Sony Corp and the estate of late pop star Michael Jackson, is also focused on EMI and is no longer chasing Bug.

XIX, BMG, Ole Music and Bug Music representatives declined to comment.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan)

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