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Even while things were unraveling, EMI’s current U.S. staff, rather than being paralyzed by the leadership vacuum and ongoing uncertainty, continued to put up a dogged fight.
WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER…
As the End Nears, I.B. Bad Reflects on EMI
As this is posted, Len Blavatnik and Citigroup appear to be playing a game of chicken over the selling price for EMI’s recorded-music assets, but insiders believe that this hard-nosed form of negotiation will culminate in a deal that, when finalized, will unite Blavatnik’s Warner Music and EMI Music.

As for the other half of the auction, if EMI Music Publishing goes to BMG, as most expect, it appears that Laurent Hubert, the American company’s respected COO, will play a large role in the combined companies, while insiders dispute those widely reported rumors that current EMI chief Roger Faxon will be installed in the newco’s top post.

As the endgame plays out, the historical significance of what is about to happen to the once great British record company is beginning to hit home across the industry. In the short term, what we’re bracing for is a further contraction of the major-label landscape, the prospect of which has most in the industry glum indeed. But in big-picture terms, we’re witnessing the end of EMI as we know it, as Citigroup moves ever closer to dismantling a company that has been in existence since the formation of what would become the record business more than a century ago, and which has been a major player throughout the modern era—the home of Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Queen and Radiohead.

In recent years, of course, EMI has fallen on hard times, the victim of longstanding mismanagement at the top of the London-based parent company, as the U.S. operation was victimized by the chronic inability of U.K.-based executives to grasp the nuances of the American music business, a pattern that played to its ugly climax during the regimes of Colin Southgate, the Berrys, Eric Nicoli and Guy Hands, whose convoluted division of the company with the laughable “buckets” system, and the hiring of clueless CEOs Elio Leoni-Sceti and Charles Allen, set the wheels in motion for the present dismal situation.

Even while things were unraveling, EMI’s current U.S. staff, rather than being paralyzed by the leadership vacuum and ongoing uncertainty, continued to put up a dogged fight, signing and breaking Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum and Thirty Seconds to Mars, and manning the barricades to this pathos-laden moment, with a 458k debut from Coldplay. Imagine what U.S. staffers are going through right now, with the Capitol Tower the modern-day equivalent of the Alamo.

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