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EMI Publishing shareholder named in major Malaysia corruption scandal

By | Published on Thursday 21 July 2016


The boss of one of the private equity groups that invested in the Sony-led acquisition of EMI Music Publishing back in 2012 is caught up in a major corruption scandal involving the Malaysian government’s sovereign wealth fund.

The American authorities have accused various people linked to Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund – including, it seems, the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak – of siphoning off over $3.5 billion of monies for their own means, including business ventures and lavish purchases like art and jewellery. The US is now seeking to seize assets in the region of $1 billion linked to the alleged fraud.

One of the key executives accused of involvement is Malaysian businessman Taek Jho Low – generally known as Jho Low – who has no formal role at the sovereign wealth fund, but who is allegedly deeply involved in its operations; though that’s something he denies.

Low’s private equity business Jynwel Capital was one of the vehicles that helped fund Sony’s $2.2 billion acquisition of EMI Music Publishing in 2012 and, according to his official biography, his involvement in that deal resulted in him becoming Non-Executive Chairman of the music publisher in Asia. But according to the Americans, the $106 million Low invested in the EMI songs business was misappropriated from Malaysia’s state fund.

A number of investors joined Sony and its long-term business partner, the Michael Jackson Estate, to acquire the songs side of EMI after Citigroup repossessed the British music major and put it up for sale in 2011. Although EMI Music Publishing technically remains a standalone business, with a different ownership structure, it operates as if it was a unit of Sony/ATV, Sony’s Music publisher.

The ownership of Sony/ATV is currently under the spotlight, of course, because Sony is trying to buy the Michael Jackson estate out that business, which would give Sony Corp complete ownership of the company, though that wouldn’t affect the ownership structure of EMI Music Publishing.

In sort of related news, pan-European indie labels trade group IMPALA has confirmed it has now submitted its objections to Sony taking complete control of Sony/ATV to the EU competition regulators who are considering the deal.

IMPALA wants the European Commission to instigate a fuller investigation into the acquisition, which would mean launching a phase two investigation – rather than approving the deal – at the start of next month. Sony has until tomorrow to propose remedies that might overcome the concerns IMPALA and others in the music publishing domain have raised, in a bid convince competition regulators to just green light the deal.

Says IMPALA boss Helen Smith: “The Sony/ATV deal would have a transformative effect. The European Commission knows the situation and the solutions, having already identified concerns about the impact of Sony’s increased market power on prices, and other terms and conditions in the digital market. Brussels has set a limit on how much power Sony should have and it now needs to enforce it”.

If Sony’s deal were to get blocked, perhaps bosses there could see if their mate Low has any more (allegedly) shady Malaysian cash in his pot to buy out the Jackson Estate instead.