Viacom music publishing unit for sale


NEW YORK - Viacom Inc. on Tuesday put its music publishing unit Famous Music on the auction block, saying it has hired investment bank UBS to explore strategic alternatives for the business to maximize its value.

Analysts have repeatedly suggested that Famous Music could end up being sold as a non-core asset.

Wall Street and industry observers said big music firms, including EMI Group and Warner Music Group, as well as private equity firms are likely to take a look at the asset.

Founded in 1928 by the predecessor of Viacom's Paramount Pictures, the Famous-Lasky Corporation, Famous Music at first published music from its "talking pictures."

Over time, it has become one of the top 10 music publishers in the U.S. and added various sorts of music to build its catalog to more than 125,000 copyrights.

Today, the catalog includes contemporary music from such acts as Shakira, Akon, Eminem and Busta Rhymes, as well as music from Oscar-winning films, such as "The Godfather," "Forrest Gump" and "Titanic" plus songs from classic TV shows, including "The Brady Bunch," "Cheers" and "Star Trek."

Famous Music also provides licensing and administration services for music catalog owners such as Viacom's MTV, Nickelodeon and BET brands.

The music publishing arm is led by chairman and CEO Irwin Robinson and president and chief operating officer Ira Jaffe.