EMI Music Publishing, one of the biggest prizes in the music rights space with a catalogue of about 1.3 million copyrights, is reportedly back on the block with a bumper pricetag in the region of US$3 billion.

EMI Publishing was for many years the golden goose for EMI Group, the last great British company and, until 2007, a publicly listed one. But when Guy Hands and his Terra Firma group took control with a multiple billion dollar deal and the promise of changing the company and the wider music business, so began a disastrous five year stretch of private-ownership which ended in EMI being carved up and its assets sold to its rivals.

In 2012, Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman Martin Bandier led the charge to buy EMI Publishing in a deal valued at $2.2 billion. Bandier knew exactly what he was paying for; he led the company for 17-years prior to taking the helm at Sony/ATV in April 2007.

When that mega-deal went down, Sony and its then partner the Jackson Estate jointly took 40% of EMI Publishing, with the remaining 60% understood to be owned by finance partners, including Mubadala Development Company, along with Jynwel Capital, the Blackstone Group’s GSO Capital Partners LP and David Geffen.

If the sellers snag the top end of its asking price, that would represent a return on investment of $800 million in just five years.
It’s uncertain which companies are kicking the tyres and just who would be in a position to raise the capital, though recent events would suggest now is a good time to cash in.

Just last year, Sony Corp. agreed to buy out the Michael Jackson estate’s 50 percent interest in Sony/ATV, giving it total control of the music publishing company. That deal was worth about $750 million. And more recently, Concord Bicycle Music bought Imagem for about $600 million, Round Hill won the auction for Carlin Music with a bid for $245 million and Toronto-based music publisher ole tested the waters with suitors asked to place minimum bids of $650 million.

Some existing backers are “keen to bail out” on EMI’s assets, according to a report published in the Sunday Telegraph, a situation backed up by Variety which recently suggested Sony Music was the most likely buyer.

Watch this space.