By: Hannah J. Karp | Wall Street Journal
Universal Music Group said Monday it had inked a multiyear deal with rapper Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to house his music label Roc Nation, snagging the coveted rights to release Mr. Carter’s next album along with the forthcoming records of other top-selling artists including Rihanna.
Mr. Carter said the deal allowed his five-year-old Roc Nation to “continue to operate as an independent label with the strength, power and reach of the best major.” Universal didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal.
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The move is a return to Universal for Mr. Carter, 43 years old, who served as president of Universal’s Island Def Jam Music Group—in addition to being one of the label’s recording artists—from 2004 until late 2007 when his contract to do so expired.
Shortly after departing from Universal, Mr. Carter joined forces with concert promoter Live Nation LYV +0.99% to launch Roc Nation—an entertainment company that includes the Roc Nation music label as well as management, publishing, merchandising and other business ventures.
To release Roc Nation records, Mr. Carter struck distribution deals with both Warner Music Group’s Atlantic Records and Sony Music Entertainment. As those deals approached expiration, the competition among the industry’s big labels over Roc Nation became fierce, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The deal with Universal comes a week after the launch of Mr. Carter’s new sports agency, Roc Nation Sports—a collaboration with the Creative Artists Agency that has already lured New York Yankees veteran second baseman Robinson Cano.
Mr. Cano, who said last week he was parting ways with top baseball agent Scott Boras to join the new venture, could garner a multiyear deal worth more than $200 million when he becomes a free agent next season.
Mr. Boras couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Carter is also a minority owner of the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets.
Universal Chief Executive Lucian Grainge said Roc Nation has swiftly become “one of the most successful brands in music with a reputation for developing some of today¹s most influential and popular talent.”