NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Madonna's 20-year relationship with Warner Music is showing signs of strain over the future of her label, Maverick Records, and the value of stock options she received, a report said Monday.
Maverick, whose stars include Alanis Morissette, Deftones and teen sensation Michelle Branch, has become one of the most successful artist-owned labels since the pop diva formed it 11 years ago as a joint venture with Warner Music, part of Time Warner Inc. (TWX: Research, Estimates)
But the New York Times said the entertainer now is in negotiations over whether Warner Music will continue to finance the label after the current partnership agreement expires at the end of 2004.
Also on the negotiating table is a stock option deal Madonna received as part of her contract back in 1999. The options were valued at $20 million to $25 million, but since Time Warner's merger with America Online, the stock has plummeted.
Executives at Warner Music, however, told the paper that the stock options were never a guarantee.
But the star, who has made billions on her album sales for Warner, is expected to seek repayment for much of the initially estimated $20 million.
"Madonna is one of the most important artists in the world from both a creative and a commercial standpoint and has been for the past two decades. I hope she spends the rest of her career with Warner," Roger Ames, chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, said in a statement.
The survival and relative success of her label is a matter of personal pride, people who work closely with Madonna told the paper. It also provides a base of operations for Madonna's close friend and business partner Guy Oseary, the people said.
Despite slumping sales of her latest albums, compared with her biggest successes back in the 1980s and 1990s, the pop icon always finds new ways to capture the media spotlight.
The diva may have been famous for her provocative lyrics and trash-talking image in the past, but the 45-year-old mother of two has recently released two children's books.
Madonna's first book, "The English Roses," published Sept. 15, became a best seller in the U.S., and her second children's book, "Mr. Peabody's Apples," was just published about a week ago.
"Yakov and the Seven Thieves," the third of five children's books planned by the singer-turned-actor-turned-Gap-spokeswoman-turned-author, will be released in April 2004.
Warner Music said it has no comment on the article. CNN/Money also is owned by Time Warner.