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David Bowie: The Man Who Rocked Wall Street With 'Celebrity Bonds'

David Bowie was not just a musical visionary, he also made history on financial markets two decades ago when he rocked Wall Street with a "celebrity bond", raising $55 million.
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David Bowie: The Man Who Rocked Wall Street With 'Celebrity Bonds'
David Bowie was not just a musical visionary, he also made history on financial markets two decades ago when he rocked Wall Street with a "celebrity bond", raising $55 million.

In 1997, the British singer launched the securities backed by the royalties to all his pre-1980 albums, which included smash hits "Let's Dance" and "Hunky Dory".

The bonds had a 10-year maturity and carried a 7.9 per cent coupon or interest rate, about 1.5 points above the market's benchmark, US Treasury bonds.

Securitising, by which illiquid assets are bundled into tradable securities, was already common in the mortgage and car loan sectors, but Bowie was the first to apply the same logic to song royalties.

The issue was bought by the Prudential Insurance Company of America for what was then $55 million.

The 287 songs on Bowie's 25 pre-1980 albums were used as collateral.

Other artists, including James Brown, Rod Stewart and Iron Maiden later used the same technique to raise funds via celebrity bonds.

Bowie bonds attracted negative attention when rating agency Moody's Investor service in 2004 downgraded them from A3 to Baa3, just one notch above junk status, because of a downturn in the sale of recorded music.

Also in 1997, Bowie signed a deal with the EMI label giving him a $30 million advance on future royalties in exchange for the worldwide distribution rights of his 1969 to 1990 catalogue.

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