Speculation follows market woes

Big Four music companies talk of going private

Tough market conditions intensified talk last week of two of the Big Four music companies going private and possibly making changes in top management.

EMI, the London-based home of Coldplay and Norah Jones, was quick to quell reports that EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli was ankling and that new owners Terra Firma had begun an executive search.

Terra Firma, the equity house that is paying $4.9 billion to take over EMI next month, is expected to give one of its execs, Stephen Alexander, “a meaningful role” at EMI. A managing director at Terra Firma, he has overseen the company’s investments in movie theaters and the food business.

Warner Music, meanwhile, curtailed an eight-month freefall in its stock price (from $27 down to $9.74) after word got out that it might go private. Privatization talks, via new investors, began after the company’s financial backers were apparently frustrated by continued negative reports about the music industry and the ongoing decline in CD sales and retail outlets.

Company posted a wider-than-expected quarterly loss Aug. 14, which pushed shares to an all-time low of $9.74. Stock then rebounded over the next two days and closed at $11.23 on Aug. 16.

The investor group of Thomas H. Lee Partners, Edgar Bronfman, Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners owns about 62% of WMG stock.

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