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Burkle in the lead of WMG?

BURKLE CLOSING IN? A U.K. report claims billionaire California retail investor Ron Burkle has emerged as an early front-runner to buy Warner Music Group. According to Sky News, Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies are the only bidder for the entire company, which includes the music pubbery Warner/ Chappell. Burkle is apparently more interested in its recorded music arm, while Goldman Sachs is reportedly seeking up to $2bn for the publishing division alone. The piece also quotes those familiar with Burkle’s plan saying he would auction off Warner/Chappell after acquiring the whole company. And where does that leave EMI, which also has a recorded music and publishing division on the market? Could Edgar Bronfman somehow get back in the game?  Among the players sources claim are still involved in the WMG auction are BMG Rights Management and Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, while Sony and UMG are also reportedly icking the tires. (3/9p)

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