Univision buy makes UMG top Latin player

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MIAMI -- Following months of negotiations, Universal Music Group on Thursday announced a definitive agreement to acquire Univision Music Group.

The deal, subject to regulatory approvals, includes Univision's music recording and publishing division and will make UMG by far the dominant company in the U.S. Latin marketplace.

Univision Music Group, which includes Univision Records, Fonovisa Records, Disa Records and La Calle, is the top-selling Latin label in the U.S., with nearly 40% of the Latin music market share, according to Nielsen SoundScan's 2007 year-end numbers. Universal's Latin labels -- Universal Music Latino and Machete -- have an 8.8% and 5.3% share, respectively. Their combined numbers will have Universal controlling half of the Latin music landscape in the U.S. Univision's holdings also include Univision Music Mexico and Univision Music Publishing.

Jesus Lopez, Universal's chairman and CEO of Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, will head the joint labels. Further management announcements are expected soon.

As part of the acquisition, UMG will continue Univision Music's long-standing agreement with the Univision TV networks, which will allow UMG to promote its artists on the Univision, Telefutura and Galavision networks.

Univision Music Group was founded in 2001 by Jose Behar, the former head of EMI Latin. Behar started the label from scratch and turned it into the leading U.S. Latin label following its acquisition of indie Fonovisa. Univision's roster includes such top-selling acts as Marco Antonio Solis, Los Tigres del Norte and Los Temerarios. Although a large bulk of the music group's catalog falls under regional Mexican music, Behar made a concerted effort to diversify his roster, recently bringing in artists including Ivy Queen and Olga Tanon and such developing acts as Xtreme and Jennifer Pena.

Univision's marriage with Universal will unify Univision's strong regional Mexican roster with a major roster of pop and reggaeton acts signed to Universal and Machete, including Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, Paulina Rubio and Wisin & Yandel.

Univision Music Group has been for sale since last year, with rumors swirling about possible buyers. Universal, whose distributing company has distributed Univision's product since the onset, appeared to be the clear front-runner since late 2007. Sources have said since December that a final agreement to acquire the company was imminent.
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