Bertelsmann Completes Legal Change

Bertelsmann Music Group has completed the change of legal form that has prompted analysts to speculate that it’s heading for an IPO that would still leave the Mohn family in control.

Germany’s companies register now shows BMG has switched from being an “Aktiengesellschaft” (or stock corporation) to being a “Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien” (a partnership limited by shares).

Bertelsmann has referred to the change of status as an “identity-preserving change of legal form,” which has been interpreted as sort of hint that it may issue stock to new investors without diluting the power of the Mohn family, which has controlled Bertelsmann since 1947.

If Bertelsmann really is trying to raise cash on the market, then new chief exec Thomas Rabe – who took over Jan. 1 – must have said something to change the Mohns’ minds over such a move.

Former chief exec Thomas Middelhoff, who oversaw the company’s campaign to expand worldwide and online, was booted out in 2002 because he had plans to make Bertelsmann a public company.

“Clearly if we are going to make more strategic and sizable investments, then more capital will be required,” Rabe said in a number of interviews to the world’s financial papers in the spring.

He said an initial public offering is only one of several capital-raising options being considered by Bertelsmann, and that no decision would be reached until the board has undertaken a strategic review.