More Bertelsmann Speculation

The New York Times is the latest international newspaper to suggest Bertelsmann is having a strategic rethink that could result in the company letting go of its American book clubs and hiving off its music business interests.

The possibility has been on the cards since the beginning of March, when chief financial officer Thomas Rabe admitted Bertelsmann would sell its share of Sony-BMG if the price was right.

The paper claims the German media giant is already having talks with Sony Corporation about selling its half of Sony BMG, the joint venture the companies started in 2004 and still the cause of problems for the European Commission’s monopoly regulators.

Having already sold its publishing business to Vivendi’s Universal Music Group for euro 1.63 billion (US$2.07 billion) in 2006, many business analysts believe the next step is to try to raise an estimated £1 billion (US$1.96 billion) out of Sony by selling its half of the record company.

Chief exec Harmut Ostrowski has been known to say the good thing is that more people are listening to music than ever before, but the bad thing is it’s not easy to monetize it.

Ostrowski has declined to comment on the future of the music partnership, as did representatives of Sony BMG, but Bertelsmann has often said it could be either a buyer or seller in the joint venture.

The second option is beginning to look far more likely, particularly as Maarten Steinkamp – the company’s president for continental Europe – has quit and is reportedly refusing to discuss the reasons for his departure.