The Federal Trade Commission has approved the $2.2 billion sale of EMI Music Publishing to an investor group led by Sony, the agency announced on Friday morning. With that clearance, the sale is expected to close later in the day.
The deal will create the world’s largest catalog of music-publishing rights, the lucrative copyrights that cover songwriting and composition. EMI’s catalog, considered a jewel of the industry, has some 1.3 million songs, including classics like “Over the Rainbow” and “New York, New York,” as well as more recent hits by Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and Kanye West.
The European Commission approved the deal with some concessions in April.
The financial arrangement behind the deal is complex, and does not give Sony complete control. Because of Sony’s joint venture with the Michael Jackson estate for its existing publishing arm, Sony/ATV, it must maintain EMI as a separate company. And while Sony/ATV will administer the EMI catalog, Sony and the Jackson estate will own only 38 percent of it.
The other investors are the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala of Abu Dhabi; Jynwel Capital of Hong Kong; Blackstone’s GSO Capital Partners; and the Hollywood mogul David Geffen.
Sony’s deal was one of two reached in November by Citigroup, which took possession of EMI in early 2011 after the previous owner, the private equity firm Terra Firma, defaulted on its debt.
In the parallel sale of EMI’s recorded-music division — which includes albums by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Coldplay and hundreds of other acts — the Universal Music Group bid $1.9 billion. That deal is still under review in Europe and the United States; last week a Senate committee questioned executives on the effect the sale might have on the business.
While independent groups have opposed both EMI sales, saying that they would result in too much market concentration, the publishing deal was always seen as an easier sell to regulators, given Sony’s minority investment and the more fragmented nature of the publishing market.
Sony has said little about its plans for EMI. A confidential financial prospectus about the deal created in January suggested that Sony would lay off as much as 60 percent of EMI’s publishing staff. After The New York Times published a report on those plans, Martin N. Bandier, the chairman of Sony/ATV — and the former head of EMI publishing — told employees that staff reductions were planned but that numbers had not been decided.