The completion of an arduous multibillion-dollar deal must surely feel like the end of a vicious political campaign; despite exhaustion of all around, there’s scarcely time for breath-catching before the real work begins. Nonetheless, the toppers of Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony/ATV deserve some moment of recognition for steering their respective ships though one of the largest deals in the history of the recorded music business.
The $4.1 billion deal to split up EMI into two parts — with UMG adopting its recorded assets, and a coalition lead by Sony/ATV inheriting its publishing — reduced the number of major label groups to three, and required an 11-month process of quorum-building, asset-shedding, and nonstop advocacy.
By the time he finally received the FTC’s OK on the deal, UMG chairman Lucian Grainge had agreed to sell off EMI’s Parlophone, Chrysalis and EMI Classics labels, among others, as well as UMG’s own Sanctuary. An often contentious congressional hearing was only the capper to a long period of defending the merger to government bodies from Japan to the U.K., but with the $1.9 billion purchase, he now adds the services of Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum and the Foo Fighters (as well as catalog material from Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and the Beatles) to his company’s credits. He’s wasted little time appointing Steve Barnett to head the newly acquired labels under the Capitol Music Group umbrella.
Even though EMI’s publishing side was its most valuable — fetching a cool $2.2 billion — the Sony/ATV acquisition passed through considerably more smoothly. Yet topper Martin Bandier certainly had his hands full organizing the group of buyers, which included Blackstone Capital Group’s GSO Capital Partners, Mubadala and David Geffen. Bandier, who had previously built EMI Music Publishing into the industry leader in his 18 years at the helm, will have final authority on the exploitation of his old repertory.
And spare a thought for Roger Faxon. The former EMI topper could have been seen as leading a lame-duck session, coming in as chairman at the nadir of the company’s disastrous ownership by Terra Firma, then watching as it was seized by Citigroup and divvied up by new owners. Yet he managed to keep an admirably even keel at the label throughout these tempests, holding its marketshare steady and shepherding some of the biggest album releases of the past few years. Faxon stepped down after the close of the sale, and recently joined the board at Britain’s ITV.