03/06/2002 AT 01:00 PM EST
Does Michael Jackson need money? That, apparently, is a hot topic in the music industry these days, though on Tuesday one rumor was scuttled by the Gloved One's record company, Sony Music. Variety reports that Sony denied stories that it was planning to acquire the remaining half of Jackson's ATV Music Publishing -- which holds more than 250 songs from the lucrative Beatles songbook -- from the waning superstar. "We are not in discussions with Mr. Jackson over the sale of his share of the ATV catalog. These rumors are completely baseless," a Sony representative told the trade paper, which noted that Jackson's record sales have declined of late, just as his legal expenses and living costs have climbed. By contrast, says Variety, in the '80s, at the time that his LP "Thriller" was breaking sales records, the star could write his own ticket. But that was then. Now, with his CD "Invincible" (reputed to have cost $30 million) failing to live up to its title, having sold just 2 million copies during the past six months, Jackson may look toward hocking some assets. According to industry estimates, the Beatles catalog alone could be worth anywhere from $400 million to more than $1 billion. And, Variety specifies, publishing rights to such classics as "Yesterday" and "Let It Be" alone fetch more than $250,000 per use -- making an outright purchase of ATV Music Publishing highly attractive to any prospective buyer, particularly to Sony, which already owns half.