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Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for the counterculture of 1960s America. Now it has become a selling point for an unusual bond offering being marketed to institutional investors and wealthy individuals. A privately held Nashville, Tenn., company is preparing a $300 million bond backed by the cut it receives as a middleman between music companies and songwriters and the outlets that broadcast their music. The company, Sesac Inc., has the exclusive rights to the public broadcast or performance of the music of Mr. Dylan, pop singer Neil Diamond, Canadian rock band Rush and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson.


The bond sale is music to the ears of investors hungry for income at a time of near-zero interest rates. At the same time, more-conservative investors tend to shun bonds backed by exotic forms of collateral that are difficult to sell in the event of a default or market upheaval.

The unusual nature of the deal was the reason Standard & Poor's gave the Sesac offering a rating of triple-B-minus, one notch above "junk" status, despite the company's star-studded roster of clients. As a so-called 144A private placement, the bonds are only available to "qualified institutional buyers," or those with $100 million or more of assets to invest.

The bond offering, which Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +1.07% has been shopping to investors in recent days, could be completed by next week, according to an investor presentation. Goldman Sachs has been advising Sesac on a possible merger since early this year, according to a person familiar with the thinking of company officials, and Sesac hasn't ruled one out.

Investors who have been pitched on the deal say underwriters are trying to sell the five-year bonds to yield around 5.25%. Comparable Treasurys currently are yielding 0.7%. Bond yields move in the opposite direction of prices.

Nearly a third of the proceeds would go toward paying a dividend to shareholders, which include investment bank Allen & Co. and hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group OZM +0.83% LLC. The balance is to refinance existing debt, pay for Goldman Sachs and set aside money for ongoing litigation.

Warren Schlumpf, Sesac's chief financial officer, declined to comment.

Debt backed by unusual forms of collateral, ranging from cellphone-tower leases to future timber sales has gained favor with investors over the past two years but dates back to the 1990s.

The music industry also spawned one of the most widely known deals: In 1997, David Bowie sold $55 million in "Bowie bonds" backed by 10 years of royalties he expected to earn on albums he recorded before 1990.

So far this year, issuance of bonds backed by unusual types of collateral has totaled $13.2 billion, compared with $13.8 billion for all of 2011, according to Deutsche Bank.

In March, Domino's Pizza Inc. DPZ -0.29% sold $1.575 billion worth of bonds backed by franchise revenue. Last November, Miramax Film NY LLC sold a $550 million deal backed by licensing and distribution revenues from films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Good Will Hunting."

The Wall Street Journal, August 2012


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