June 26, 2008 , 12:45 PM ET - Global Music Group, a Tennessee-based independent label, has acquired Death Row Records and could release a new Tupac Shakur album this year.Susan Berg, the label's owner, purchased the historic hip-hop label for $25 million yesterday (June 25), beating out companies like Warner Music Group and EverGreen Copyrights."Everybody's excited," a spokesperson for Global Music Group tells Billboard.com.Marion "Suge" Knight founded Death Row Records in 1991 and soon reached a blistering peak with releases by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. However after years of financial mismanagement, Death Row was put into receivership when Knight filed bankruptcy in the wake of a $107 million judgment he was ordered to pay to label co-founder Lydia Harris. As a result, Death Row was available for auction starting Tuesday.
In February, Billboard.com reported that the majority of the company's assets appeared to be those of Shakur -- both master recordings and compositions -- including previously unreleased recordings. However, sorting through the assets to determine what rights Death Row holds in masters and publishing may be a challenge, as approval rights for future uses of Shakur's works still must go through EverGreen and Shakur's heir."If they're smart they'd be calling me soon," says David Schulhof, EverGreen's co-CEO. "We approve all uses. They can't do anything with the catalog without us."Schulhof says EverGreen did not purchase Death Row because it's a hornet's nest of unpaid bills, including claims by countless songwriters who never received royalties."Honestly, it became too expensive," says Schulhof. "Whether Death Row still has to pay those songwriters or not as a function of law or whether the court wiped that out is not clear. Global Music Group may wake up and have a nasty surprise."However, Schulhof says Global now owns at least several albums worth of Shakur music and it's not implausible for the independent to release a posthumous album this year.