Warner Music Group -- home to acts like Led Zeppelin, Green Day, and Tempe-based indie rock band The Maine -- is for sale. If you think it's tough outbidding other eBay users for a rare record, you should see the bidding battle currently underway for one of the last giants of the record industry.
Several prospective buyers have thrown their hats in the ring, including Warner competitors Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. But as the auction for WMG enters its final round, the real competition is boiling down to two billionaire powerhouses you might not have heard of: the Gores brothers, and Russian-born mogul Len Blavatnik. Each party has supposedly bid around $3 billion dollars for Warner Music Group. It's hard to say what either of them will do with the company if they acquire it, but based on their business records, we can take a couple guesses.
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Tom Gores owns Platinum Equity, and has placed a bid along with his brother Alec Gores' investment firm, the Gores Group. The brothers are rumored to be interested in acquiring Warner Music Group to help bolster the business of their brother Sam Gores, who owns the Paradigm Talent Agency, which represents Coldplay, Aerosmith, and Phish, among other artists. The Gores have been bidding on several music and entertainment companies, including Miramax and CKX Inc., which owns American Idol. If they were to acquire WMG, they might also make a play for Citigroup-controlled EMI, which is expected to go up for auction soon. Combining the assets of WMG and rival EMI would only be logical.
Len Blavatnik owns industrial group Access Industries. He's a friend of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman, and already owns two percent of WMG. In the past couple years, Blavatnik's had his sights on more assets in the entertainment industry (he was rumored to be a bidder for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer last year).
The Gores have hired financial services firm UBS to help them win the auction. Directors at Warner have reportedly hired a law firm to assist them, should Blavatnik win and his bid be challenged. Meanwhile, Sony and Universal are still in the game, but there are complications for them. In addition to dealing with their own declining record sales, there may also be regulatory roadblocks that would stall WMG's sale to a rival music group.
The auction is expected to close on Friday, with the winner announced the same day.