Entertainment giant Time Warner moved Friday toward the sale of its Warner Music division to an investor group led by Canadian tycoon Edgar Bronfman, possibly ending the industry's game of musical chairs.
Time Warner, the world's biggest media-entertainment company, which is trying to ease a crushing debt burden, has set a Sunday deadline for a deal to sell the music unit which has acts including Madonna, Led Zeppelin and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, news reports said.
A source familiar with the talks said Time Warner chairman Dick Parsons recommended Thursday that his board lean toward the Bronfman offer over one from British music group EMI.
"The chairman presented two options, but recommended that the board study the offer made by Bronfman" for Warner Music, said the source, adding that its offer was in the neighborhood of US$2.5 billion.
Eric Nicoli, chairman of EMI Group plc, acknowledged this in a statement: "Time Warner has [Thursday] informed us that they are now considering a possible proposal from another party as an alternative to our own firm offer."
The deal with Bronfman might involve some retaining stake by Time Warner, the source said.
On Wednesday, EMI, home to the Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams, said talks were at "an advanced stage" with Time Warner following its "firm proposal" for Warner Music.
It did not disclose details of the offer.
Bronfman, 48, a former head of the Canadian group Seagram, had built the spirits business into a media empire that included Universal Pictures and Universal Music, until that group was absorbed by France's Vivendi.
With German media giant Bertelsmann and Japanese electronics group Sony having agreed earlier this month to merge their music operations, EMI was pinning its hopes on a tie-up with Warner.
The major music labels control about 75 percent of the recorded music market and any deal between EMI and another major would concern regulators.
Bronfman is a man of measured speech, natty and youthful looking. But the man who today aims to take over Time Warner's music business has spent his life being compared to his father, also named Edgar Bronfman, the patriarch at Seagram.