George Harrison buys Mornyork Ltd

On this day George Harrison bought a shelf company, Mornyork Ltd, which he turned into a music publishing company Harrisongs Ltd. He was on tour in the US at the time, so the transaction would most likely have been made on his behalf by NEMS Enterprises.

Shelf companies typically exist for no other purpose than to enable others to buy them to set up their own companies with minimal complications. That was the case with Mornyork, which became Harrisongs Ltd on 7 December 1964.

Harrison, however, entered into a three-year publishing deal with Northern from 25 March 1965, giving that company the publishing rights to his songs. None of Harrison’s compositions were published by Harrisongs until his Northern Songs contract expired in March 1968. Harrison owned 80% of Harrisongs.

Northern Songs was the company formed in February 1963 by Dick James and Brian Epstein on behalf of John Lennon and Paul McCartney to publish their compositions.

Ringo Starr was also under contract to Northern Songs. He and Harrison both became dissatisfied with their royalty rate from the deal; in 1967 Harrison wrote ‘Only A Northern Song’ about the situation.

Royalty rates on songs published by Northern Songs were divided among the principal shareholders, with Lennon owning 19%, McCartney owning 20%, 10% belonging to NEMS Enterprises Ltd, and 49% owned by Dick James Music (DJM); Harrison and Starr initially owned nothing. By the time the company went public in 1965 it had been restructured and all the shareholders had cashed in some of their holdings. Lennon and McCartney each owned 15%, DJM held 7%, his family had 15%, DJM’s co-director Emmanuel Charles Silver had 15%, and NEMS Enterprises owned 7%. Harrison and Starr held just 1.6% between them.

The result was that Harrison and Starr received far less money than Lennon-McCartney for any of their compositions that the company published. And, because he was under contract with Northern Songs until 1968, Harrison left his own publishing company dormant until that time. Starr set up his own publishing company Startling Music in 1968.

Last updated: 9 September 2016
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