Andrew Lloyd Webber has emerged as the front-runner in a bidding war for control of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization of the U.S., owner of such beloved works as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and South Pacific.
The British theatre mogul and writer of musicals such as Cats and Evita has bid close to $200 million for the catalogue held by the organization, which includes many of his own musicals, according to the London Standard.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization owns not only the music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, but also the rights to works by 100 other songwriters, including Irving Berlin.
Lloyd Webber, a savvy producer who has earned a fortune from musical theatre, set up the Really Useful Group in 1977 to control his own works in Britain.
But Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization owns North American rights to such Lloyd Webber works as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.
The organization's owners, Mary Rodgers Guettel and Alice Hammerstein Mathias, granddaughters of the original founders, are elderly and the family put out word last month it might be interested in selling rights to its back catalogue.
Songs such as White Christmas, Some Enchanted Evening, There's No Business Like Show Business and other works considered part of "the Great American Songbook," are still lucrative and companies such as Sony, EMI and Universal are expected to bid.
However, the recent market turmoil may have ended the chance to get the price the family had hoped and there is a chance it may consider selling just part of the back catalogue, British media reported.