$500mn Pink Floyd song catalogue sale stalled by band infighting

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The $500mn-plus sale of Pink Floyd’s music catalogue has hit a wall, with the auction delayed by months of arguing between band members over tax, assets, and bassist Roger Waters’ claims that he is on an assassination hit list in Ukraine.

The dispute is jeopardising an expected payout for a song catalogue that is viewed as one of the most valuable assets to come to market during a boom in sales of vintage rock music.

With interest from a wide group of investors and music companies including Blackstone, Sony Music and Warner Music, Pink Floyd was expected to fetch more than $500mn, making it one of the biggest music rights deals ever.

However the auction process — which started in May — has been mired in drama and delayed for several months by disagreements between the band members over the tax structure of the deal, according to several people involved in negotiations.

Waters lives in the US while other members are in the UK, and his relations with Dave Gilmour have been strained for decades, making an agreement over a complex financial transaction fraught.

A bidder for the catalogue said the strained relationship had ‘made it impossible’ © REUTERS

A bidder for the catalogue said the strained relationship had “made it impossible”. Another said they may never be able to close a deal, even if a buyer were chosen, because the band “never need an excuse to disagree”. Negotiating the deal had been “as difficult as it is possible to be”, said a person familiar with the talks.

Bidders have taken to calling the adviser handling the sale a “mediator”.

Bidders had been told the process would restart soon after stalling over how to structure the deal in a tax efficient way.

They still hoped to reach an agreement in the coming weeks and talks were active, said people with knowledge of the details.

Waters’ controversial comments this week — in which he claimed to be on a Ukrainian “kill list” — have not helped matters, according to bidders involved.

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has claimed to be on a Ukrainian kill list © REUTERS

Waters told Rolling Stone on Tuesday: “It’s an unnecessary war . . . Russia should not have been encouraged to invade the Ukraine after they tried for 20 years to avoid it by suggesting diplomatic measures to western governments.” 

Band members Gilmour and Nick Mason this year released a new song to support Ukraine after Russia invaded, with proceeds going to Ukrainian humanitarian relief. Gilmour said he was “disappointed” by Waters.

Pink Floyd’s surviving band members are in their late 70s and are looking to follow stars such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen who have sold their song catalogues for hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years, taking advantage of soaring demand for music from Wall Street investors.

Waters and Gilmour have had a tense relationship for more than four decades. Drummer Nick Mason in 2018 said: “It’s really disappointing that these rather elderly gentlemen are still at loggerheads . . . it would seem silly at this stage of our lives to still be fighting.”

The band’s coveted song catalogue includes hits like “Money”, “Comfortably Numb” and “Welcome to the Machine”. Pink Floyd’s members did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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