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Fuller in discussions with financiers as Universal opens ‘data room’ for Parlophone sale

By | Published on Monday 12 November 2012


Simon Fuller is still planning to bid for the Parlophone Music Group, the collection of frontline labels and sound recording catalogues, most originally part of EMI Music, being put up for sale by Universal as part of its agreement with competition regulators in Europe, who insisted on the divestments before green lighting the mega-major’s acquisition of the EMI record company.

According to Sky News, ‘American Idol’ creator Fuller is in talks with various partners about raising the cash needed to buy the EMI assets for sale, which include the Parlophone and Chrysalis catalogues from EMI, Universal’s Sanctuary catalogue, and half of the Now That’s What I Call Music brand.

Rumour has it Fuller, whose core business remains talent management since leaving the CKX group that acquired his original 19 company in 2005, reckons the Now brand is ripe for exploitation in the TV domain, while the more conventional record label side of the Parlophone business would likely be run via Fuller’s existing joint venture with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.

According to Sky’s City Editor Mark Kleinman, Fuller’s possible finance partners in the Parlophone deal include RIT Capital Partners, the investment trust led by Jacob Rothschild, though discussions are believed to be at an early stage and no commitments have as yet been made by either party.

Although Fuller’s bid for Parlophone has been the most high profile since it was confirmed for certain what EMI assets Universal would be selling, both BMG and Warner Music are still thought to be considering bidding, while Sky cites insiders as saying that Universal has received over 90 expressions of interest in the catalogues and labels on the block.

The mega-major is expected to kick start the bidding process this week by opening a ‘data room’ for serious bidders, where they can gather more information about the assets up for sale. That room will be accessible for about a fortnight. Timescales for bid submissions are not yet known, though the Mail On Sunday says that Universal bosses hope to have the deal done by next March at the latest.

While Warner Music has always been expected to bid for any EMI assets sold off by Universal or Sony/ATV (the latter having led the consortium that bought the EMI music publishing business, of course), some have wondered whether Universal would consider selling to its major label rival, given the lengths Warner went to in its unsuccessful bid to have the Universal/EMI bid blocked by regulators in both the US and Europe.

But when asked about that by Hits Daily Double recently, Universal chief Lucian Grainge insisted that: “We are very open-minded about where Parlophone goes. I just want to make sure it goes to an investor that will be responsible. And at the same time, the balance is between our satisfaction on price, and also my shareholders’ satisfaction on the value of the divestment. You know, the good news about this divestment process is that they are really good divestments. There’s great quality there. And it is our responsibility as a team to make sure that we materialise the best possible package for ourselves”.

Of course however much Grainge et al dislike Warner Music management just now over their open opposition to the big EMI deal, Universal couldn’t really justify to its shareholders turning the major away if it arrived with the highest offer for Parlophone etc. Though given how Warner execs played the game when bidding against Universal for EMI Music in its entirety, and given their subsequent statement to the effect that they believed Universal overpaid, it seems unlikely the mini-major will be the highest bidder in this latest EMI sale.

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