Charles Allen to head EMI Music

Former ITV boss replaces Elio Leoni-Sceti

LONDON — EMI Group’s revolving doors continue to spin with news that Elio Leoni-Sceti — the CEO in charge of its record labels — is exiting the company after just 18 months at the helm.

The surprise announcement shocked industry observers in London as the likeable Italian has been credited with markedly improving the profitability of the recorded music side of the business, but in a statement he claimed “my job here is now done.” The major has appointed Charles Allen as its executive chairman to assume command of the EMI Music division.

Allen has been non-executive chairman of EMI Music since January 2009, chairing its board and supporting Leoni-Sceti’s transformation of the business. His career prior to EMI includes a spell as executive chairman of broadcaster Granada from 2001-04 and then chief executive of commercial net ITV in 2004-07. Allen is also a non-executive director on a number of boards and an adviser to Goldman Sachs.

Leoni-Sceti will leave EMI Music on March 31. He took on the position of chief executive in September 2008 when he joined the company from consumer products giant Reckitt Benckiser, which manufactures detergent, hair remover and dishwasher tablets.

Leoni-Sceti was recently charged with formulating a new business plan for debt-wracked EMI, which is facing a multimillion-dollar payment on its purchase-related bank note in June.

In December, Terra Firma Investments, which bought EMI in 2007, sued Citigroup, alleging misrepresentations by the lender that led to the equity firm’s payment of a “fraudulently inflated price” of £4 billion ($6 billion) for the music company (Daily Variety, Dec. 14).

In a statement Leoni-Sceti said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Charles and so many other talented and committed people. I look forward to seeing the company go on to further success in the future.”

In EMI’s statement announcing the senior management changes, Allen said: “Our goals for EMI Music remain the same. I will support and guide the group’s strong team, keep EMI’s focus on creativity and superb A&R, and deliver a digital platform. This is a great business — our task is to ensure it has a great future.”

News of Leoni-Sceti’s exit came on the heels of more bad news for the company: According to the Associated Press, a lawsuit was filed against EMI on Tuesday in a London court by Pink Floyd, whose late ’60s and early ’70s catalog is controlled by the company.

The bestselling band alleged that EMI violated its contract with the group by selling its music digitally in a form “otherwise than in the original configuration of the Pink Floyd albums” — that is, as individual songs rather than as cohesive works. The group’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” still holds the record for the longest stay on the U.S. album chart, with 741 weeks logged.

(Christopher Morris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)