Billboard.com has published and interview with John Branca on Michael’s interest in owning publishing rights to songs.
John Branca says in the interview; “Michael is the person who was single-handedly most responsible for the growth of Sony/ATV. That’s not to take anything away from Martin Bandier (former chairman) who was very influential and instrumental in growing the company, or present chairman/CEO Jon Platt, with whom the company is in great hands. But it really started with Michael.”
Billboard asks when John Branca became aware of Michael’s interest in publishing?
“Michael and I started working together in 1980,” Mr Branca said. He was an innovator like Sam Cooke. When he hired me, he didn’t own his masters at the time. But ‘Thriller’ gave him the leverage and the platform for me to go to Sony and get him ownership of his masters. That was very important to him. Right after ‘Thriller’ came out, Michael said he wanted to buy copyrights. We bought the Sly and the Family Stone catalog and bought more wonderful copyrights later like ‘When a Man Loves a Woman,’ McFadden & Whitehead’s ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,’ and Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.’ Then when Michael bought ATV in 1985, that was part one of his dream, to create the biggest publishing company in the world. Then the merger with Sony in 1995 was the next step in the process. Michael was also on Sony/ATV’s board of directors, so he remained active in helping to build the company as it continued to buy important publishing catalogs.
Along the way, I represented Leiber and Stoller when they sold their catalog to Sony/ATV and also represented Berry Gordy in selling the Jobete song catalog to EMI Music Publishing. After Michael’s unfortunate passing, we were able to help Marty Bandier and Rob Wiesenthal (chief financial officer) buy EMI to create the biggest publisher in the world. When we did that, it was kind of a nod to Michael because that was his dream. He was always focused on that.
Billboard asks what Michael’s thought process was in determining which catalogs and copyrights to acquire?
“He appreciated great songs and great songwriting and in his mind the Beatles were the greatest. So when the Beatles catalog came up, my God, he couldn’t rest. It took almost a year to finish that deal and get that catalog, but I can’t tell you how excited he was.
During the interview they also ask if Mr Branca has a special memory about Michael’s publishing pursuits?
“I remember mentioning to him that growing up, I’d been a fan of Dion and the Belmonts and noted that Dion’s ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’ were for sale,” Mr Branca explains. “Michael said, “I don’t know those songs; send them over.” Michael would always spend Sundays dancing, so on Monday morning, he called me up: “Branca, Branca. I love the songs! We’ve got to get them. I danced all day to ‘Runaround Sue.’’’ Michael was passionate beyond belief.”