Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge can cross off another entry from his bucket list. The veteran executive was named Cannes Lions' Media Person of the Year at a ceremony held at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France on June 21.Among the industry names in attendance were UMG's Michele Anthony, Mike Tunnicliffe, Andrew Kronfeld, Olivier Robert-Murphy, and Olivier Nusse, along with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ron Howard, Lang Lang, Michael Kassan, Jamie N Commons, Casey Wasserman, Peter Rice, Glassnote Records'...
As if running the world’s largest music company weren’t enough, Grainge joined an even more rarified tier when he was knighted in 2016 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The moment represented a new peak in a life that has been spent entirely working in the music business. Grainge’s father ran a record store in South London and his older brother Nigel, who passed away in June, was a legendary A&R exec who founded the legendary Ensign label (Sinead O’Connor, Boomtown Rats, the Waterboys) and brought along his younger brother to concerts; the younger Grainge cites seeing the Ramones in 1976 as a pivotal moment.
Now Sir Lucian Grainge, he began his climb up the Universal ranks some 31 years ago when he launched PolyGram Music Publishing in the U.K., moving over to the label side in 1993 and eventually becoming chairman/CEO first of Universal Music UK in 2001, then Universal Music International in 2005, and finally all of UMG in 2010.
Under his tenure the company has solidified its status as the world’s largest music group. Grainge led the company’s acquisition of EMI’s recorded music assets in 2012 and managed the transition to a streaming economy that accounted for some 45% of the company’s revenue in the second quarter of 2016 — perhaps most telling of all, UMG was valued at a whopping $23.5 billion by Goldman Sachs in August.
Much of his strength comes from his management ability: He famously encourages competition between the labels and executives under his domain, which include Capitol, Def Jam, Interscope, Island, Republic, Verve and Universal Nashville and Latin, among others, along with Universal Music Publishing and Bravado merchandising. The wide array of world-class talent under his purview is amply demonstrated by UMG’s release schedule in the coming months, which includes new albums from U2, Sam Smith, Shania Twain, Beck, Demi Lovato, The Killers, Chris Stapleton and (possibly) Nicki Minaj, Eminem and Paul McCartney.