On Music Row: Differing financial fortunes may soon unite two titans

Monday, May 25, 2009 at 11:30pm

What do Clear Channel and Terra Firma have in common? They both purchased assets that have declined greatly in value and as a result are struggling to satisfy debt loads that are difficult to support given the current business climate.

Terra Firma, which bought EMI two years ago for $4.7 billion, is under stress to help the music company meet some of its debt covenants. If EMI is unable to meet those obligations, Citigroup, which controls the $5 billion debt load, could move EMI into bankruptcy.

On the other hand, Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman has just successfully managed to restructure his company’s debt through a bond offering that raised $1.1 billion. That also put WMG in a more flexible position with regard to acquisitions.

According to the New York Post, this important change in WMG’s balance sheet could mean that a merger with EMI, a long-talked-about marriage, might actually have stronger-than-ever odds of success.

“An EMI-WMG merger has always made sense, and with WMG’s newly strengthened balance sheet and the lights dimming on EMI, the stage may finally be set for a merger,” Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield commented late last week.

Guitar auction to benefit Opry Trust Fund

The inaugural edition of the Guitars of the Stars Benefit Auction to benefit the Opry Trust Fund will take place June 12 at 2 p.m. at the Ryman Auditorium. The event will offer fans in town for the CMA Music Festival the opportunity to bid on Epiphone acoustic guitars decorated by country stars and visual artists.

Among the stars who have confirmed they will contribute guitars they’ve designed are Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton, Kellie Pickler, Sugarland, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.

All proceeds benefit the Opry Trust Fund, which has for more than 40 years assisted members of the country music community in need of help with medical bills, living expenses, utilities, rent and food.

Warner/Chappell signs James Otto

Warner/Chappell Music, the global publishing arm of Warner Music Group, has announced a worldwide publishing agreement with Warner Bros. Records artist James Otto, Song of the Year winner at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards and a two-time 2008 Grammy Award nominee.

Warner/Chappell Music will co-publish and administer the majority of Otto’s catalog, including songs from his breakthrough sophomore album, “Sunset Man,” as well as his future compositions.

Sony/ATV promotes Berschback

Duff Berschback has been promoted to VP of Business Affairs at Sony/ATV Nashville. Berschback joined Sony/ATV Nashville in January 2007 as senior director of business affairs after six years as an entertainment attorney with his own Nashville-based private practice.

He will report directly to Sony/ATV Nashville President and CEO Troy Tomlinson and oversee all contract negotiations, catalog acquisitions and copyright infringement litigation.

“Duff has proven to be a welcome addition to our Nashville team,” Tomlinson said. “His professionalism, work ethic and love of songwriters made this advancement obvious.”