Sony Music Corp. is in the process of helping Bad Bunny manager Noah Assad — the CEO of Latin music label and management company Rimas Entertainment — buy out his partner, Rafael Ricardo Jiménez Dan, a former Venezuelan government official who has a 60% majority stake in the company, sources familiar with the matter tell Billboard.
Rimas — which manages, records and publishes Bad Bunny — also has a label and management roster that includes Arcángel, Eladio Carrión, Jowell & Randy and Tommy Torres. The company was founded in 2014 in Puerto Rico and now has about 100 employees.
According to sources, Sony will participate in a buyout of Jiménez, who has not been involved in running Rimas’ day-to-day operations since 2018. That will result in a reshuffling of the company’s ownership and will likely leave Bad Bunny with an equity stake in the firm— and either Assad, or the combination of Assad and Bad Bunny, with majority ownership.
However the deal is ultimately financed, Sony itself is expected to wind up with a significant minority share in Rimas, which it will assign to The Orchard, its rapidly growing music distribution and artists/label services powerhouse that currently distributes Rimas.
Billboard estimates that Rimas Entertainment — the record label and the management company — has a valuation above $300 million without including the company’s publishing assets, which sources say are not currently being considered as a part of this transaction.
Assad and Jimenez, respectively, also have the same 40–60% ownership stakes in the music publishing assets, Jiménez tells Billboard. The publishing company, which includes some Bad Bunny songs and was launched by Assad, Jiménez and lawyer Carlos Souffront, is also up for sale. The sellers are seeking a $70 million to $75 million valuation for the overall publishing company, those sources add. As on the recorded music side, Assad plans to retain his stake in the song catalog, which means that the Jiménez stake could potentially fetch $42 million to $45 million.
Assessing a valuation for the publishing deal is tricky, sources say, because many of Bad Bunny’s songs are still widely popular, which makes it harder to calculate how much their plays will decay until they level off and become a predictable income stream, likely in a decade or two from now. As it is, the Rimas publishing portfolio —which is currently being administered by Universal Music Publishing Group — has about $5 million to $7.5 million in net publisher share (gross profit after paying songwriter royalties), a level it is expected to maintain over the next few years.
The music publishing portion of Jiménez’s Rimas holdings have been shopped to private equity players, sources say, and there is currently no known buyer. That’s in contrast to the hoped-for sale of the label/management holdings, which appears to have only been offered to Sony. However, sources wonder if Assad has matching rights on the publishing assets, which means that he could also arrange a deal to buy the Jimenez publishing stake if he matches the highest offer.
Jiménez is being represented for the expected publishing sale by Brian Richards, co-founder and managing partner of the investment advisory firm Artisan. On the record label/management side of Rimas, sources say Jiménez is being advised by Mitchell, Silberberg & Krupp partner Joel Schoenfeld, the former general counsel of eMusic and BMG’s senior vp of business affairs before that; and by Colin Finkelstein, the former CFO for EMI Music, who sometimes consults with investors on music assets and also owns and runs a few artist management firms.
Both deals are said to be very complex, and sources say they have been in the works for months — with some wondering whether the deals have been stalled due to friction between the two partners, Jiménez and Assad.
Another looming issue may be how much financial capacity Sony Music Group has to close deals right now. As Sony negotiates the stake in Rimas, it is reportedly also in talks to acquire part — or possibly all — of the Michael Jackson estate in a deal that could carry a valuation of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.
The question is whether Sony’s corporate leadership in Japan has signed off on the funding and the completion of both deals and if the costs involved in the deals might force Sony to choose to between them.
If both deals are completed, sources suggest that they would likely still need to be approved by regulators. Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, as of Feb. 27, 2023, any merger and/or acquisition that has a transaction value of more than $111 million — or if the contemplated combined entity will have total assets of more than $445 million — must file and seek regulatory approval.
Assad, Jiménez, Sony, Finkelstein, Schoenfeld and Richards either declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Additional reporting by Alexei Barrionuevo