Wily Warner catches Roadrunner

Music group buying 73.5% stake in Nickelback label

Warner Music Group has entered into a deal to acquire 73.5% stake of Roadrunner Music Group B.V., parent company of hard rock and heavy metal label Roadrunner Records, for $73.5 million.

Island Def Jam has been distributing Roadrunner, perhaps best known as the home to rock radio staple Nickelback, for the past five years. The move and corresponding sale of a majority stake in the label to WMG comes at the recent conclusion of a five-year 50-50 joint venture between Roadrunner and IDJ parent Universal Music Group.

After completion of the purchase, the Netherlands-based label will be housed within WMG's Atlantic Records Group in the U.S. and within Warner Music International for the rest of the world.

Roadrunner founder and managing director Cees Wessels will continue to head the label and operate it as a free-standing entity with its own sales marketing and promotion staffs.

No layoffs or restructurings are planned for Roadrunner's global staff of 100-120.

The pact reunites Wessels with WMG Recorded Music chairman and CEO Lyor Cohen, who was responsible for overseeing IDJ's relationship with Roadrunner dating back to 2001.

Based on 2006 results, WMG now lays claim to the top three positions in hard music market share in the U.S., with Warner Bros. at No. 1, followed by Atlantic and Roadrunner.

Founded in 1980, RMG has subsidiaries in eight countries, with offices in New York. In four of the past five years, Roadrunner has had at least one of the five top-selling hard music acts in the U.S. with releases from Nickelback.

Roadrunner's roster also includes Slipknot, Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, Theory of a Deadman, Megadeth, Black Label Society and Trivium.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval in Germany and is expected to close next month.

Brian Garrity is senior business correspondent at Billboard.