1MDB-linked hip-hop artist Pras Michel sells stake in Fugees Library to Apollo-backed firm
- HarbourView Equity Partners bought Michel’s stake in the master recordings of the Fugees according to a commercial filing that did not disclose the fee
- Michel was charged with trying to funnel millions of dollars into the US presidential election as campaign donations and hiding source of the funds
HarbourView Equity Partners bought Michel’s stake in the master recordings of the Fugees, the rap group he co-founded more than three decades ago, according to a commercial filing in Washington that does not disclose how much Michel was paid. Lawyers for the performer and a HarbourView spokesman had no comment.
Apollo committed as much as US$1 billion in funding to Newark, New Jersey-based HarbourView, which has invested in a wide range of musical genres since it was founded last year by Sherrese Clarke Soares. HarbourView also announced this week that it bought country icon Brad Paisley’s master recordings in a deal that values the archive at as much as US$25 million.
The Fugees, which Michel started with Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, are one of the bestselling hip-hop groups ever, partly on the strength of their second album, The Score, which won the Grammy for best rap album in 1997. The three artists began going their separate ways in the late 1990s, though they have since reunited several times for short periods.
Michel pleaded not guilty, with one of his lawyer’s calling the case “a selective prosecution that has unfairly targeted” the artist, who’s expected to stand trial in November.
Most musicians have two potential streams of royalties, including the copyrights on the songs they composed and the master recordings of their performances. Michel had a one-third stake in the group’s master recordings with the remainder held by Hill and Jean, according to the filing. Sony Music Entertainment owns the publishing copyrights on the group’s compositions.
Artists have been cashing in on their music catalogues for the past several years, with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and John Legend among those finding buyers. Members of the rock band Pink Floyd are said to be seeking at least US$500 million for their work.
The rights to the Fugees music would be particularly valuable because other artists often sample bits of the group’s songs into their own recordings, constantly creating new sources of royalty revenue.
“You have over a quarter-century of people being influenced by their music and sampling it to create their own songs,” Eli Ball, the founder of Utopia Music division Lyric Financial, which provides funding to singers and songwriters, said of the Fugees. “That is really where the value comes from.”