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Motown, Combs Near Distribution Deal

Hip-hop impresario Sean “P.Diddy” Combs is within a hair’s breadth of inking a worldwide distribution deal for his Bad Boy Entertainment imprint with Universal Motown Records Group.

The partners haven’t put pen to paper yet, but the pact is 80% to completion, said a source close to the situation. The deal, which carries a fairly short term of between two and three years, is said to be worth roughly $10 million – a fraction of the $100 million Combs was seeking when he first cut Bad Boy loose from BMG last year.

However, it does allow Combs to retain 100% ownership of Bad Boy, which he founded originally as a joint venture with BMG’s Arista Records in 1994. Combs bought back the 50% of the label he didn’t own last June and vowed to retain full control.

In addition to distribution, Universal will also provide Bad Boy with promotion, sales, marketing, publicity and back-office services.

The Universal pact covers both Bad Boy’s new releases and its back catalog – including work from such artists as Notorious B.I.G., R&B act 112, Faith Evans, Mase and P. Diddy himself.

Rumors about the Bad Boy deal had been floating around the business for months – even before Combs split with BMG. In recent weeks, the artist-executive had appeared to have narrowed the search to Universal and Warner Music’s Elektra.

But many music-biz insiders have become skeptical of Combs’ continued ability to engineer hit releases on the scale of his successes in the late ’90s with B.I.G. and others. The label’s sales numbers were headed downward in the run-up to Combs’ departure from Arista.

Representatives for Combs and Universal weren’t immediately available for comment.

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