All posts tagged Edgar Bronfman Jr

Outgoing Warner Music Chairman maligns Universal acquiring EMI

Speaking at the Dive Into Media conference yesterday in California, on what was his last day as Chairman of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. didn’t mince any words when it came to Read more…

Post EMI Auction Round Up

As was expected by many observers,  Read more…

More Bits & Pieces: Warner Music gets new CEO, Blackberry Messenger music?, new Spotify numbers & more…

'chairman of the bored'

Today came the announcement that Edgar Bronfman Jr. will be exiting his role as CEO of Warner Music, a post he has held since 2004. He’ll remain on as chairman of the board at Warner Music Group, while Stephen Cooper will take up the reins as new CEO. Cooper’s track record, primarily as an interim CEO with a focus on turning around troubled companies, includes stints at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Enron, among others. It’s expected that Bronfman’s focus will transition to the current bid for EMI Group, continuing his long-desired goal of combining the two companies. If merger efforts fail, his continued involvement at Warners is questionable…  Research In Motion is reportedly working on a new music service that will utilize the popular BlackBerry Messenger service, with some major labels supposedly already onboard, though it’s unclear exactly which ones. The service as it’s being described, though not by RIM, would be far from robust, but it’s being characterized as possible positive note for the struggling smartphone maker… A legal fray that has the Village People‘s original lead-singer attempting to regain copyright control over his share of a number of works including “Y.M.C.A.” may prove to be telling in the coming battle over “termination rights,” that will pit many big-name artists against labels – a storyline that hit the mainstream media this week… Music and imagery from The Beatles are featured in a new anti-piracy video as a part of the UK-based Why Music Matters campaign. There’s a bit of irony here, as pointed out by Peter Kafka on AllThingsD, in that the Fab-Four’s music is still only (legally) accessible digitally in one place, that being iTunes, where it was first made exclusively available 10 months ago. With a plethora of other new digital music services out there, one can wonder how long it will be before the group’s music will be more widely available… Elsewhere, Music Ally has obtained a report that provides insight into Spotify‘s subscriber numbers, particularly for the period following new restrictions on free accounts that were in acted earlier this year. Get the details HERE, but essentially with the changes, the number of free user accounts dropped by over 1.5 million, while the paying user base increased by roughly 1/3 of that amount. The conversion of users from free to paying isn’t insignificant, and that’s good news for Spotify, who has to pay royatlies regardless of whether a user pays for the service or not, but losing over 1 million potential listeners is not exactly good news for artists… And a group music publishers who joined a class-action lawsuit against YouTube-owner Google in 2007, came to a settlement this week, a resolution that in part will see pubcos given the opportunity to enter into a licensing agreement to receive royalties for musical works included in videos on the site. According to at least one person familiar with the situation, artists should expect to start receiving accounting for YouTube royalties from publishers right around the time they start receiving it from the record labels.

EMI Derby: Who Has the Inside Track… Pt. 1

Industry insiders have shared with us recently that they are putting Len Blavatnik‘s Access Industries as the front-runner in the auction of EMI by Citigroup, which is expected to start in the coming weeks – and there’s plenty of good reason to bet that way. It’s been reported that Citi executives have already engaged in talks with the new Warner Music Group owner about a potential acquisition, Edgar Bronfman Jr. has long desired to merge Warner and EMI, and Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons ran Time Warner during a previous bid to merge the two companies. However, those in the know share that Warner isn’t the only suitor with ties to both Citi and EMI. More on that below… Many of the deep-pocketed bidders from the Warner Music auction are expected to enter the EMI derby, for either the recorded music unit, publishing or both, with regulatory issues as the most obvious concern for parties like Universal Music, Sony Music and now Access-owned WMG – all of them would have to shed assets in order to complete a deal. Meanwhile, private equity players would have an easier time making an acquisition, but the Terra Firma debacle may prove too cautionary for some who are interested… With all that, it’s BMG Rights Management that is on the tongues of insiders as one of the most well-positioned contenders, particularly with regard to EMI Music Publishing. The Bertelsmann and KKR-backed joint venture was deep in talks with Terra Firma to buy the publishing unit back in 2009, which would have relieved some of the debt that ultimately forced Guy Hands to turn the company over to Citigroup, and prior to that, KKR was in the running to acquire the entire EMI Music Group, before it ended up in the hands of Terra Firma… With relationships in place, and knowledge of the company before, during and after the Guy Hands era, it’s not hard to envision EMI publishing assets ending up in the already prodigious BMG Rights Management catalog, which would put the JV in position to rival Universal Music Publishing Group for the top spot in market share. This just five years after Bertelsmann sold BMG Music Publishing to Universal. But the story wouldn’t end there… Stay tuned.

Bits & Pieces: Bronfman Testimony in Lime Wire Case Tied to Settlement?, Slacker Launches On-Demand, Relentless Goes After Coca-Cola & more…

Slacker launches its new on-demand music service

Last week saw a settlement agreement between the RIAA and Lime Wire founder Mark Gorton, in the amount of $105 million. The deal was reached after the first day of testimony from Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. – who was scheduled to appear back on the stand last Thursday, the day on which the settlement was reached. While the amount to be paid is much lower than what the major label plaintiffs were seeking, originally trillions and later it was pegged in the billions, many are looking to Bronfman’s statements during cross-examination as critical in a variety of ways. Was it the focus on how much money the CEO had gotten out of the investment in taking over the company in 2004? Or the massive layoffs and cutting of artists from the roster, or maybe the possibility of the Gorton’s attorney’s bringing up the recent insider trading conviction Bronfman received – a line of questioning that wasn’t ruled out by the judge. While over $100 million is still quite a lot of money (though it’s not likely to make its way to any artist pockets), and the shuttering of Lime Wire, can both be seen as victories for further diminishing illegal file-sharing of music, CNET‘s Greg Sandoval points out, there is also a silver lining for the advancement of new digital music services, evidenced in the first on-record comments from a high-ranking label executive supporting the unbundling of music… Meanwhile, Slacker has launched a new on-demand music subscription service, adding to its current interactive streaming model that is similar to Pandora. This makes Slacker the first and only company to offer both fully developed interactive radio and an on-demand music services, according to company executives. While debatable, the move is certainly a coup for the service, which has often been often left out of the mainstream media conversations about the new digital music landscape… UK independent label Cooking Vinyl is getting a multi-million dollar infusion from a fund backed by VC firm Icebreaker, which will allow the label to make a number of high profile signings… Elsewhere, the intriguing litigation between FBT Productions and Universal Music Group, over the digital sales of Eminem songs, will continue in California to determine damages owed. Though, however much is determined, apparently for now, Em won’t be seeing any of it…  And UK label Relentless Records, responsible for releases from Joss Stone, KT Tunstall and Cage the Elephant among others, has taken legal action against Coca-Cola over the increasing use of their energy drink product of the same name, Relentless, in connection with music venues and festivals, which is causing confusion and an unwanted corporate association for the label and its artists…

Warner Music Group Acquired by Access Industries

Blavatnik's Access buys WMG

This morning it was announced that Warner Music Group is being acquired by Access Industries and owner Len Blavatnik (who previously had a 2% ownership stake in the company), with an offer of $8.25 that values the company at $3.3 billion. Blavatnik beat out a handful of rival bidders, with the most competition coming from Platinum Equity/Gores Group (read this post on the New York Times DealBook blog for a look at how Warners’ investors made out on the deal)… No sooner than the news broke, did attention turn to Citigroup‘s upcoming EMI auction, which many are speculating will include a heavy play by Blavatnik in an effort to combine the two music groups. It’s believed that with Access taking over WMG, current CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. will remain safely installed in the company, and will play a key role in any attempt to buy EMI – speculation of a Warner/Chappell Publishing sale in order to help finance such an acquisition, and remove one of many probably regulatory hurdles, continues. However on the heels of WMG’s announcement, the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) has already made comments warning that any attempt to combine EMI with Warners would be met with investigative scrutiny by the European Commission – IMPALA previously challenged the Sony and Bertelsmann merger in 2006… Stay tuned.

More EMI & WMG: Hands Won’t Give Up & Warner Racing to the Block

In his first public appearance since the turnover of EMI Music to Citigroup, Terra Firma‘s Guy Hands said he is considering buying EMI, according to a report in Bloomberg, but that it is a “question of price,” adding, “They are going to auction it, and we will see if they can get more for it than we offered.” Addressing the split of EMI’s two divisions, Hands declared, “You’ve really got to keep the two together so that you have the stability of publishing’s earnings versus the volatility of the recorded music division.” Following the bank’s takeover of the music company, much of the publicity has shifted to EMI CEO Roger Faxon, and his rumored stealth efforts to save the label, being credited with leading a behind the scenes effort without Hands’ knowledge. Others in the know share that the spin has been well orchestrated leading up to Citi taking control, to keep Faxon’s place at the table moving forward… Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that Warner Music Group is trying to beat Citigroup to the finish line, hoping to get a sale in place before EMI. Particularly in light of the presumed interest in selling off its publishing division Warner/Chappell before EMI Publishing, as it would be hard pressed to compete. Interested bidders named include Zomba founder Clive Calder, Russian investor Leonard Blavatnik, Universal Music, Sony Music, KKR and music publishing giant Imagem. While whether or not WMG backers Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners are looking to cash out or just unload WC is unclear, the article claims CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. is anything but ready to get out of the music business.

Spotify Talk Stupefies

#1 source of label revenue in Sweden & Norway

Contrasting speculation continues around Spotify and when the start up will launch in the U.S. as well as whether or not the income it could create would even mean anything significant for artists or labels. Recent reports have anonymous label executives calling the revenue they create “Microscopic,” “Laughable,” And “Pathetic”, while others proclaim the service is now the “second largest source of revenue in Europe for labels”. For what that’s worth. And questions continue to be raised over how the service pays artists, particularly indie acts… Only an actual launch in the U.S. would tell the full story. Where do things sit with such a launch? Sony Music has signed on, and EMI is supposedly “close” – but they have been for weeks, and there’s larger entanglements there with the state of limbo the label is in under the temporary ownership of Citigroup. Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. has changed his tune slightly, stating on yesterday’s WMG earnings call “We do see Spotify, and services like Spotify, as ever-more meaningful for our results.” Meanwhile Universal Music Group remains the big prize for the start up getting off the ground in the states. If a letter sent to the current few U.S. users of the service and a job opening in an unnamed U.S. location, are any indication, Spotify will soon be landing here. Or maybe not.  As aptly put by @evolverfm “Spotify in the U.S. is the new Beatles on iTunes.”

Wascally Wabbit: Top Level Changeover at Warner/Chappell Music – What’s Next?

Strang New CEO, Francis Out

Yesterday saw the naming of Cameron Strang as the new CEO of Warner/Chappell Music by Warner Music Group Chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., with the additional role of chairman being assumed by Strang in July of this year, at which time current Chairman and former CEO David Johnson will exit.  A shift that had long been in the works, Strang, a Canadian born industry veteran and entrepreneur who founded New West Records as well as Southside Independent Music Publishing, will bring along Southside to WMG as part of the deal. Meanwhile, Scott Francis who was named President and Chairman/CEO of Warner/Chappell U.S. in 2008, will also be departing. Strang’s impressive pedigree is clear, though this change in leadership is the latest in a series of top-level changes at the bunny’s pubco over the previous five years that has left some observers questioning the moves. Here’s a recap… With the takeover in 2004 of WMG by the investment group headed by Bronfman that also included Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital, came the exit of longtime Warner/Chappell Chairman and CEO Les Bider and President Rick Shoemaker, who both ran the pubco successfully for over two decades, overseeing massive growth for the division. With Bider’s exit, Richard Blackstone was named as chief, moving from his presidency at Zomba Music Publishing. Following Blackstone’s naming as CEO, W/C Prexy, Rick Shoemaker, exited his post in 2006, leaving a gap that would not be filled for some time. Meanwhile, Blackstone would step down the following year, with David Johnson being named as interim CEO from his previous role as WMG EVP and General Counsel. The position for Johnson became permanent up until yesterday’s announcement. While a new president would not be named for over two years, longtime Sony Soundtrax exec Glen Brunman was brought over in 2007 as head of creative with presidential duties, sans title. It wasn’t until July of 2008 that former BMG Music Publishing prexy Scott Francis was given the newly created presidential/CEO position mentioned above… Back to the present, questions now surround the presumed empty presidency spot left by Francis, as well as the fate of other creative executives among the pubco’s ranks.  How long will the seat remain open this time? Will new management hire from within? Meanwhile, we hear rumblings that a former Warner/Chappell executive could also be courted to return. Stay tuned.

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