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Leiber, Stoller to Sell Pop Classics

May 08, 2003|Jeff Leeds | Times Staff Writer

Legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller plan to stand by the catalog of hits they've written during their five decades in the music business, but they've auctioned the rest of their holdings.

Leiber and Stoller, the composers of such classics as "Stand by Me" and "Jailhouse Rock," agreed to sell their Trio and Quartet music catalogs, which include nearly 20,000 titles by other songwriters, to independent music publisher Windswept Classics and trading giant Itochu Corp. Company representatives declined to comment on the details, but sources placed the price at about $60 million.

Windswept's offer for the catalogs, which include such hits as "What a Wonderful World" and "It's in His Kiss," won out over rival bids from Sony Music's publishing arm and kids' television mogul Haim Saban, among others, the sources said.

The deal is the first major sale by the duo since they began buying up copyrights in the 1970s. It leaves them with a vault of about 600 songs, the bulk of which are their own famous works. The pact was negotiated by the duo's publishing president, Randy Poe, attorney John Frankenheimer and Windswept Holdings chief Evan Medow.

Poe said the writers, now in their 70s, "felt that it was time to concentrate on their own works, and time to put a value on those works they owned which they didn't write."

For Windswept, the deal triples the size of its catalog and instantly returns the company to the top ranks of the nation's music publishers. Windswept had sold the vast majority of its holdings, about 40,000 songs including rock classic "Louie Louie," to British music giant EMI Group four years ago for $200 million.

But Windswept, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Fuji Television Network Group, has started bolstering its holdings as the licensing business appears to be picking up strength, despite problems elsewhere in the music industry. "We're interested in buying quality," Medow said. "Buying quality will always prove to be a wise investment."

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