Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Private equity now owns Taylor Swift's back catalog — and she isn't happy about it.

The state of play: Ithaca, a media holding company led by Scooter Braun, announced that it has acquired Big Machine Label Group, which has released each of her albums thus far. Under terms of the deal, which was partially financed by The Carlyle Group and is said to be valued north of $300 million, Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta will continue to run the label, hold a minority stake in Ithaca, and join its board.

  • Big Machine was not one of the labels in which Ithaca already had a stake, per a source familiar with the situation.


  • 2017: Carlyle invests in Ithaca, best known for managing such artists as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Kanye West. It also quietly held minority stakes in many of the country's largest music management companies.
  • 2018: Swift decides to leave Big Machine, whose other artists include Florida Georgia Line and Rascal Flatts, to sign with Universal Music Group. Big Machine's final offer to keep her apparently included a reversion of Swift's master recordings to her.

After news of the deal broke, Swift put everyone involved on blast.

  • She wrote on Tumblr that she learned of the deal via the public announcement, and that she believed Braun has "bullied" her in the past.
"When I left my masters in Scott's hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words 'Scooter Braun' escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them."

The other side: Braun didn't return a request for comment, and thus far has kept quiet outside of retweeting someone (unrelated) who wrote that "context is everything." Braun's wife, however, did reply via Instagram. So did Bieber. Both of them claim Swift has some of her facts wrong.

  • Borchetta writes that he texted Swift about the deal on Saturday night as a heads-up, and that her father should — or at least could — have been aware weeks earlier as a Big Machine shareholder. He also disputed Swift's depiction of the masters reversion proposal and negotiations, including some document photos and email conversations.

The bottom line: Yesterday morning, this was an interesting music industry deal, furthering the power and influence of a PE-backed holding company that most music-lovers have never heard of. Today, it's a PR debacle and, in music management, relationships are everything. In other words, don't be surprised to eventually see an amicable resolution.

Go deeper: Taylor Swift inks Universal Music Group mega-deal

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Wall Street is living up to its bad reputation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Recent headlines will have you convinced that Wall Street is hell-bent on living up to all of its stereotypes.

Driving the news: Goldman Sachs is the biggest and the boldest, paying more than $5 billion in fines in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, in which billions were stolen from the people of Malaysia.

2 hours ago - Health

Ex-FDA chief: Pence campaigning after COVID exposure puts others at risk

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said "the short answer is yes" when asked whether Vice President Mike Pence is putting others at risk by continuing to campaign after several aides tested positive for COVID-19, stressing that the White House needs to be "very explicit about the risks that they're taking."

Why it matters: The New York Times reports that at least five members of Pence's inner circle, including his chief of staff Marc Short and outside adviser Marty Obst, have tested positive for the virus. Pence tested negative on Sunday morning, according to the VP's office, and he'll continue to travel for the final stretch of the 2020 campaign.

Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.