First the rumor went around that Michael Jackson was leaving the Beatles catalog to Paul McCartney in his will. Then the rumor was that McCartney was upset that Jackson didn’t leave the Beatles catalog to the Beatle in his will.
Neither is true, said McCartney in a posting on his Web site. “Some time ago, the media came up with the idea that Michael Jackson was going to leave his share in the Beatles songs to me in his will which was completely made up and something I didn’t believe for a second,” McCartney said. “Now the report is that I am devastated to find that he didn’t leave the songs to me. This is completely untrue,” he added. The story of the Beatles song catalog is long and tangled. At the time McCartney and writing partner John Lennon wrote their songs, they retained only a portion of the rights in the publishing company created by the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, and London music publisher Dick James. (The company was called Northern Songs, a nod to the Beatles’ Liverpudlian roots.) The company went public in 1965. According to the myth-busting site Snopes.com, Lennon and McCartney each had 15 percent of the shares, Epstein (and his NEMS Enterprises) had 7.5 percent, James and partner Charles Silver had 37.5 percent and Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr had less than 2 percent. The rest was available for public investment. Over the years (and partly due to the group’s legal battles) the Beatles lost or sold their control, and the catalog of about 250 songs — almost all of Lennon/McCartney’s creations — ended up in the hands of British media mogul Sir Lew Grade and his ATV Music Publishing. ATV added the Beatles’ songs to its holdings, a cache that eventually grew to more than 4,000 songs. (Other songs in the catalog include those recorded by the Kinks, the Moody Blues and Elvis Presley.)
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In 1984, the catalog was put up for sale again. McCartney wanted to buy his creations back, but for various reasons wasn’t a front-runner. Jackson — who had taken to investing in music publishing at, ironically, McCartney’s recommendation — came up with the winning bid of $47.5 million. The sale went through in 1985. In 1995, Sony paid Jackson $95 million to merge the catalog with its Sony Music. Jackson maintained 50 percent control. In 2005, Sony/ATV Music had more than 200,000 songs in its catalog, a CNN.com article reported. To finance his lifestyle, Jackson borrowed money, using the catalog as collateral. Nevertheless, he never lost the asset. The entire catalog was estimated to be worth between $600 million and $1 billion in 2005, according to a 2005 article in USA Today. As a songwriter, McCartney has continued to receive some royalties from his work, as has Lennon’s estate. McCartney said in the posting that he and Jackson may have “drifted apart,” but “we never really fell out.” “At times like this, the press do tend to make things up, so occasionally, I feel the need to put the record straight,” he wrote. McCartney and Jackson recorded a pair of duets in the early 1980s, “The Girl Is Mine” and “Say Say Say.” The latter hit No. 1 in late 1983.