CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

CMU Weekly – Friday 6 May 2011

By | Published on Saturday 7 May 2011

Andy Malt

So, the news we’ve been waiting to hear for four months now has finally arrived; Warner Music Group has sold itself to Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries for $3.3 billion.

Blavatnik has long been considered the favourite in the race to take over the major music company; he has previously sat on the firm’s board and already held a minority share. He’s also pretty chummy with current CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr, who until now owned a large chunk of WMG. In fact, selling to Blavatnik seems such a foregone conclusion that one has to wonder if the lengthy bidding process was all just for show.

Having initially called for bids to buy part of the company, either the record labels or the publishing division, it was subsequently announced that bids for the whole group were being accepted last month. Once his purchase is completed it’s expected that Blavatnik will keep things running pretty much as usual for the time being, with Edgar still in charge. But then the two men will likely mount a bid for EMI, when US bank Citigroup puts it up for sale, which, if successful, would result in quite a bit of internal change and, for Bronfman, the achievement of his longterm plan, to run a combined Warner EMI.

When it became clear that EMI would be put up for sale later this year, back when it was repossessed by Citi from equity firm Terra Firma in January, renewed speculation about a merger with Warner Music began immediately. But some pointed out WMG didn’t have the money to buy even half of EMI – in fact, Warner’s debt situation, although not talked about as much as EMI’s previously massive bank loans, wasn’t that much healthier. Edgar would have known this. But once Len B has full ownership, Warner’s balance sheet will be looking much better, and an EMI takeover therefore seems much more realistic.

Of course, all of this is speculation at this stage, but one thing is for sure; 2011 will remain an interesting year for anyone observing the goings on at the top levels of the recorded music industry. And the future of such music companies will be one of the many topics discussed at the CMU-programmed Great Escape convention, which is now less than a week away.

Speakers and panellists at the convnetion will include PRS For Music’s chief Economist Will Page, BPI Chair Tony Wadsworth, Topspin’s Ian Rogers, Bandcamp’s Andrew Dubber, DJ Shadow, Wall Of Sound’s Mark Jones, producer Paul Epworth, The Guardian’s Casper Llewellyn-Smith, and many more. Plus, there’ll be various parties and networking opportunities, and of course, over 300 bands playing live.

There are still some delegate passes available for £150, which will give you access to everything over the three days. More information from

As well as all the excitement of The Great Escape next week, we’ll still be putting out the CMU Daily and the CMU Weekly as usual. And there’ll be a podcast, though that will be a little bit later next week, as Chris and I plan to sit down and record it on Sunday morning after TGE is over.

But you can listen to this week’s podcast right now. In it we discuss all those goings on at Warner Music, Spotify’s apparent attempt to take on iTunes, the beginning of the LimeWire damages trial, the lack of Conrad Murray and Phil Spector trials, The Sunday Times’ list of rich music people, plus Justin Bieber being attacked with eggs. Get it on iTunes here, via RSS here, on SoundCloud here, or just as a good old MP3 download right here.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you in Brighton next week. If you see me, do come and say hello. I would like that. Oh, and make sure you follow @tgecon on Twitter for Great Escape conference updates.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

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