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Home to Beatles hits Abbey Road up for sale by EMI


The Beatles are shown crossing Abbey Road in a scene from the new video game "The Beatles: Rock Band" at the Microsoft XBox 360 E3 2009 media briefing in Los Angeles June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
The Beatles are shown crossing Abbey Road in a scene from the new video game "The Beatles: Rock Band" at the Microsoft XBox 360 E3 2009 media briefing in Los Angeles June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - The London recording studio immortalized by the multi-million-selling Beatles album of the same name has been put up for sale by its owners.

Debt-laden music company EMI is seeking buyers for Abbey Road Studios, a mecca for Beatles fans around the world who pose for photographs imitating the picture on the 1969 "Abbey Road" album cover which shows Paul, John, George and Ringo strolling over a pedestrian crossing outside the studio.

EMI is talking to a few interested parties about selling the North London studios, but a deal is not imminent, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters. The company and its private equity owner Terra Firma <TERA.UL> declined to comment.

Abbey Road, which began life as a Georgian town house built in 1831, has an impressive history aside from the Beatles, who recorded most of their 1960s hit singles and albums there under the direction of EMI house producer George Martin.

Its walls have also echoed to music performed by classical composer Edward Elgar, rock bands Pink Floyd and Radiohead, violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin, 1980s bands Spandau Ballet and Simple Minds, as well as Mike Oldfield and Jeff Beck.

A sale that includes the brand could raise 25 to 30 million pounds ($39 million to $47 million), the person said. Terra Firma recently told investors it needed more than 100 million pounds to stop EMI breaching banking covenants.

A 4 billion pound deal to buy the record label in 2007 has come to epitomize the woes of buyout deals done at the private equity bubble, with a high debt burden and a weak performance crippling the business.

The investment has been so tumultuous for Terra Firma that it recently launched a lawsuit against Citigroup <C.N> claiming the U.S. bank inflated the price of the business during the sale process by not revealing the only other bidder had withdrawn from the auction. Citigroup denies the allegations.

(Additional reporting by Simon Meads, editing by Paul Casciato and Andrew Dobbie)

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