EMI says it wants to keep Abbey Road studios

LONDON (Reuters) – Music company EMI wants to retain ownership of the Abbey Road recording studios, immortalized by the Beatles’ album of the same name, although it is in talks with other parties about revitalizing the site , EMI said on Sunday.

Pedestrians cross the road outside Abbey Road studios in north London February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jas Lehal

A source familiar with the situation told Reuters last week that loss-making EMI had put the studios up for sale and was talking to a few interested companies, although no deal was imminent.

“EMI confirms that it is holding preliminary discussions for the revitalization of Abbey Road with interested and appropriate third parties,” the company said in a statement, without specifying what exactly the discussions were about.

EMI said it had been in talks since November 2009 to find ways to regenerate the studios, which had been losing money for years, but rejected an offer worth 30 million pounds ($46 million ).

“We believe Abbey Road should remain owned by EMI,” the company said.

Millions of Beatles fans around the world are sentimentally attached to the studios, which are also popular with tourists who pose for souvenir snaps on the nearby zebra crossing where the Beatles are depicted on the album cover.

EMI said it welcomed reports that architectural preservation body English Heritage was planning to inscribe Abbey Road, a step which would make it very difficult for any developer to do anything drastic on the site.

Such a listing could potentially lower the price that EMI could get for Abbey Road if it eventually sells it.

The company, owned by private equity group Terra Firma, said any agreed plan for Abbey Road would involve “a substantial infusion of new capital”.

“When Terra Firma acquired EMI in 2007, it made the preservation of Abbey Road a priority,” EMI said.

Reports last week that the studios were for sale sparked a lot of interest, including from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, who said the studios should be saved, and musical theater maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber, who flagged him as a potential buyer.

Lloyd Webber, the man behind the hit musicals ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, recorded some of his works at Abbey Road.

The acquisition of EMI for £4 billion has come to symbolize the difficulties caused by costly takeover deals struck at the height of a private equity bubble. EMI’s high debt load and poor performance became a burden on Terra Firma.

The private equity firm recently launched a lawsuit against Citigroup, claiming the US bank inflated EMI’s price during the sale process by failing to disclose that another bidder had pulled out. Citigroup denies the allegation.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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