Music Mogul Fuller Tunes Into EMI Backers

Mark Kleinman, City Editor
Music Mogul Fuller Tunes Into EMI Backers

Simon Fuller, the music impresario who launched the careers of the Spice Girls, is on the verge of securing a more unlikely partnership: teaming up with septuagenarian investor Lord Rothschild to bid for a host of EMI record labels.

Mr Fuller, the owner of XIX Entertainment, has approached a number of potential investors about backing a bid he is assembling for Parlophone and a number of the music industry's other best-known names.

I have learned that the media tycoon is in talks with RIT Capital Partners, the investment trust chaired by Lord Rothschild, and other firms to inject hundreds of millions of pounds into a takeover of the EMI labels.

The assets, which include the Sanctuary label and the Now music compilation series, have been put up for sale by Universal Music Group as part of an agreement with the European Commission.

Parlophone is home to some of the world's famous artists, including Coldplay, Blur and Kylie Minogue.

The agreement to sell the labels follows Universal's £1.3bn takeover of EMI's recorded music business last year.

EMI had been owned by Citi, the Wall Street bank, which took control of the business from Guy Hands, the financier, after he was unable to service its debt.

Talks between RIT and XIX Entertainment are at an early stage, people close to them said on Friday, and might not result in an deal.

RIT invests in a wide array of businesses and its board members include Lord Myners, the former City Minister.

Mr Fuller is working on his bid with Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, which discovered Bob Marley and U2.

If he does strike a deal, Mr Fuller would add well-known musicians to a client base which includes Andy Murray, the British tennis number one, and Lewis Hamilton, the Formula One driver.

The duo and their financial backers will face stiff competition to get their hands on the EMI portfolio.

Warner Music Group, another of the world's biggest record companies, BMG Music Publishing, which is interested in some of the back catalogues put up for sale.

A data room will be opened to prospective buyers next week, and more than 90 expressions of interest have been received by Universal, according to insiders.

People close to the process said the extent of the interest in the EMI assets suggested that Universal might secure more than £500m in total for the group of labels.

That would effectively mean that Universal, the world's biggest music company, had paid just £800m for almost two-thirds of EMI's most covetable businesses. Such an outcome would contradict the suggestion that Universal had overpaid for EMI.

Spokesmen for RIT, Mr Fuller and Universal declined to comment.