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Blavatnik Said to Be Leading Bidder in Warner Music Auction

Access Industries Holdings Chairman Len Blavatnik
Len Blavatnik, chairman and president of Access Industries Holdings. Photographer: Rick Maiman/Bloomberg

Warner Music Group former director Len Blavatnik has emerged as the leading bidder for the New York-based music company that put itself up for sale in January, said three people with knowledge of the situation.

A sale to Blavatnik’s Access Industries Holdings for $3 billion or more would end a three-month auction whose finalists include private-equity brothers Tom and Alec Gores and Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Rival bidders may yet revise their offers and a sale to Blavatnik is not certain, said two people. The board meets again today, they said. Tom Gores, who runs Beverly Hills, California-based Platinum Equity LLC, is working with Alec Gores, whose Los Angeles-based firm is Gores Group LLC.

Sony/ATV has made a joint bid with billionaire Ronald Perelman and Guggenheim Partners LLC, people have said. Each of the bids is about $3 billion or higher, they have said.

Michael Sitrick, an outside spokesman for Blavatnik, declined to comment. A Warner Music spokesman declined to comment.

A sale to Blavatnik would position Warner Music to make a bid for EMI Group Ltd., the London-based music company that lender Citigroup Inc. seized from its owner, Guy Hands. By combining the two companies, a new owner would be able to cut costs.

Warner Music, home to artists including Cee Lo Green and the Black Keys, has long-term debt of $1.94 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Warner Music added 5 cents to $7.42 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have climbed 32 percent this year.

The list of suitors narrowed last week when billionaire investor Ron Burkle decided to walk away.

The Financial Times reported earlier that Blavatnik was the lead bidder.

Eight of Warner Music’s 13 directors are executives of Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital LLC, two Boston-based private-equity firms that together hold 51 percent of the company’s shares. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edgar Bronfman Jr. owns about 7 percent of the stock.

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