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EMI rumors making rounds at Midem ’99

Revamp in exec ranks possible

CANNES — The majors may be the backroom boys at the indie-dominated Midem music market, but that has not stopped buzzings over the fate of troubled EMI.

One of the wilder suggestions is that Marjorie Scardino, head of Brit media group Pearson, is a possible contender to become chief exec at EMI, a position that could be filled within weeks. The highly regarded Scardino, however, is considered too valuable for Pearson to let go.

And despite the idea that Richard Branson could once again command Virgin, EMI’s most successful label, Britain’s most famous entrepreneur has his hands full with the Virgin empire, a group strained in its railway and clothing operations.

Falling out of favor

Making arguably more sense is that EMI could de-merge its record and music publishing divisions, with BMG picking up publishing. Some analysts say that the value of EMI’s publishing is not being realized within the company.

Since EMI and consumer electronics group Thorn de-merged in the summer of 1996, EMI’s share price has collapsed to about a quarter of its de-merger high.

In another Midem development, Boxman, a very successful Swedish on-line music retailer, is expanding from the Nordic markets into the U.K., Germany and France by April.

Boxman claims to have now cornered 5% of the total Nordic retail music market. It caters largely to an older demographic — many Nordic adults are Internet-savvy — and offers mostly back-catalog CD releases, thus reactivating dormant titles for record companies.

Business in general slowed at Midem on Wednesday, the last official day of the market, with many delegates making the trek back to the Nice airport. The biggest concert draw Wednesday night was a guitarist showcase at the Palais, featuring Slash from Guns N’ Roses, who was a surprise arrival.

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