EMI is to sell the iconic Abbey Road studios in London, where The Beatles recorded most of their albums. A sale could raise tens of millions of pounds for the music group, which is looking to reduce the burden of debt following the 2007 buy-out by Terra Firma.
EMI has been courting bidders for the property in St John's Wood, which it bought in 1929 for £100,000 and turned into one of the world's first custom-built recording studios, the Financial Times has reported.
Back in 2006, Abbey Road studios were threatened with prosecution over a Coldplay gig it hosted for the BBC. The recording studio was threatened with prosecution four years ago under new licensing laws because it hosted an "illegal" gig organised by the broadcasting corporation. Lawyers from Westminster Council claimed the Coldplay concert, which was aired on Radio 2 in April 2006, was the first live music event to break the law since it came into force in November 2005.
Westminster sought legal advice when a former adviser on the Licensing Act, discovered that Abbey Road doesn't have a licence for live entertainment despite assurances to the BBC that it had fulfilled all its legal requirements.
Sir Edward Elgar used Studio One in 1931 to record Land of Hope and Glory with the London Symphony Orchestra, and during the Second World War the complex was used for propaganda recordings for the Government plus BBC radio broadcasts.
But it was The Beatles who really put the studios on the map, using them to record the bulk of their work between 1962 and 1969. They named their final work Abbey Road, the cover of which immortalised the pedestrian crossing outside the studios as the four band members walked across it in Iain Macmillan's classic photograph. Pink Floyd recorded their 1970s album Dark Side of the Moon there, while contemporary bands that have used them include Blur, Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers.
However, in recent years the studios have faced cheaper competition from recording facilities in other countries. Recording technology now allows artists to record using just a laptop computer, making it harder for companies to justify an expensive infrastructure.
But Abbey Road is still valuable as one of the few venues able to accommodate an entire orchestra, which has allowed producers to record scores there for films including Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. A sale could boost EMI's finances at a time when Terra Firma is trying to get £120m from investors by June to avoid breaching covenants on loans of £3.3bn from Citigroup.
Chris Martin attends the London Evening Standard British Film Awards (9th February 2010):