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THE MONEY TREE

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U2 has apparently found what it was looking for with its much-hyped new record deal. Initial reports on June 4 had Bono and his bandmates, thanks to a renegotiated contract with Island Records, raking in a jaw-dropping $200 million-a deal that would top every other in the music business, including those of Michael Jackson, Madonna, (formerly Prince), Barbra Streisand, and Janet Jackson. Within days, industry sources scaled the sum down to a more reasonable $50 million to $60 million, beating the Rolling Stones’ reported $45 million contract and making U2 the highest-paid rock group on the planet. ”They’re deserving because they’re steady, long-term players,” says attorney Donald Passman, who helmed Janet Jackson’s $40 million pact with Virgin. U2 has already sold more than 50 million albums worldwide; Island now keeps the group’s back catalog and lands the rights to its next six albums, including Zooropa, due out on July 6. The $200 million? ”That was just a number the U2 people floated to make the & deal seem staggering,” says an insider. Island and U2 declined comment. So who lands the next big one? Bruce Springsteen? Don Henley? ”Somebody gets one of these deals,” says Passman, ”and then everybody runs and wants their deal to be bigger because of it.”

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