Politics

AOC and Elizabeth Warren take Taylor Swift's side in feud with private equity firm Carlyle Group

Key Points
  • Taylor Swift wrote a Tumblr post in which she detailed her frustration over the terms of the sale of her back catalog to music managers Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta and private equity firm Carlyle Group.
  • Carlyle Group helped finance the deal, announced in June.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has railed against private equity firms before, pointing to the bankruptcies of retailers that occurred under their watch.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren also sided with Swift on Saturday, accusing private equity of "gobbling up more and more of our economy." 
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during the Climate Crisis Summit before introducing Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at Drake University on November 9, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Ocasio-Cortez has been campaigning in support of Sanders after endorsing him last month in New York City.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a new ally in her battle against private equity: Taylor Swift.

"Private equity groups' predatory practices actively hurt millions of Americans," AOC wrote on Twitter Friday night.

"Their leveraged buyouts have destroyed the lives of retail workers across the country, scrapping 1+ million jobs. Now they're holding Taylor Swift's own music hostage. They need to be reigned in."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren sided with Swift on Saturday, accusing private equity of "gobbling up more and more of our economy." Warren is a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. 

 

Swift on Thursday wrote a Tumblr post in which she detailed her frustration over the terms of the sale of her back catalog to music managers Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta and private equity firm Carlyle Group. Swift, who protested the initial sale, claimed Braun and Borchetta's company, Big Machine Label Group, is placing restrictions on her ability to play her older music on televised performances.

She pleaded for support from her fans and let them know where they could direct their anger.

"Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this," wrote Swift. "I'm especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up money for the sale of my music to these two men."

Borchetta, Swift's former manager, announced he sold his music label, Big Machine Label Group and Swift's entire back-catalog to Braun's media company, Ithaca Holdings, in June. Carlyle Group, which has been an investor in Ithaca Holdings since 2017, helped finance the deal. Jay Sammons, who heads Carlyle's global consumer, media and retail team, stayed on the board of Ithaca Holdings, according to a release issued at the time.

Carlyle has declined comment to CNBC. Big Machine said in a statement that "at no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special." It did not say whether it had placed a restriction on Swift's ability to play older songs in televised performances.

Ocasio-Cortez and Warren have experience taking on private equity firms. Most notably, Ocasio-Cortez has railed against private equity firms that led leveraged buyouts of retailers that resulted in numerous bankruptcies, like Toys R Us and Sports Authority. Many of those companies crumbled under the load of debt that private equity firms used to help finance their acquisitions. Debt payments proved particularly onerous as the retail environment changed and retailers needed to make investments in their businesses they could not afford.

The deal for Taylor Swift's masters, though, is not a leveraged buyout. According to a press release issued at the time, Carlyle, a minority shareholder, provided equity for the transaction, not debt. Unlike typical private equity deals, which change hands every few years, Braun and Borchetta appear to have aspirations of owning Swift's catalog for the long-run.

Nonetheless, private equity is already under an uncomfortable spotlight in the run up to the 2020 election, as populist rhetoric has rung loud. Warren unveiled her "Stop Wall Street Looting Act" over the summer to reign in private equity firms. The proposal calls for private equity firms to carry the burden of debts and pension obligations of companies they buy and to limit their ability to extract fees, bonuses, and dividends.

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