Branson trims debt, V2 stake

Will spend own cash to develop artists

Richard Branson has traded a 25% stake in V2 Records to his creditors, led by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, in exchange for canceling about $141.6 million worth of debt. This adds to the 9.5% stake he sold when the bonds were issued in 1998.

Branson formed the V2 diskery — home of million-selling techno-whiz Moby — in 1996 after selling his original record biz venture, Virgin Records, to EMI for $993 million in ’93. He continues to head the Virgin-branded retail stores, airlines, colas, condoms and sundry other operations.

Branson also plans to toss an additional $68.5 million of his own money into V2’s coffers in order to develop new artists.

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