Future of EMI Classics and Virgin Classics brands uncertain as Warner acquires PLG

- 4 July 2013

Warner Music Group officially acquired the catalogues and recording activities of EMI and Virgin Classics on 1 July as part of its £487m acquisition of the Parlophone Label Group (PLG).

PLG, which also includes the UK’s Chrysalis/Ensign labels and the EMI operating companies in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, comprised businesses Universal Music Group was required to dispose of to acquire the main EMI Music Group.

However, the future of the classical divisions remains unclear because Warner did not acquire the EMI and Virgin Classics brands as part of the deal. The US company has talked of launching a new classical brand, but for now it is busy removing the EMI and Virgin logos from the sleeves of all classical albums distributed after 1 July.

Warner has produced few classical releases since acquiring Germany’s Teldec and France’s Erato, then halting their production activities.

However, since 2011 Warner has been owned by Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born US citizen with a multimillion-pound home in London. He is a lavish supporter of the arts, including the Royal Opera House, and a friend of the conductor Valery Gergiev.

In his official statement marking acquisition of the PLG he said: ‘This is a defining moment for Warner Music, which is strengthened today by the addition of PLG’s acclaimed roster, renowned catalogue and gifted executives. This acquisition further cements Warner Music’s place as the world’s best home for extraordinary artists.’

PLG’s CEO, David Kassler, announced he would be stepping down. His Warner counterpart, Stephen Cooper, said: ‘This acquisition unites two companies synonymous with incredible music, pioneering labels and artists that have shaped genres and defined generations. By staying true to our shared values, leveraging our complementary strengths and investing in growth, we will build on that remarkable legacy to set new standards in artist development and drive industry-leading innovation. Above all, this historic deal will create global opportunities for great music talent.’

Universal chairman & CEO Lucian Grainge welcomed the cash injection his company received from the deal. The company also retained many of EMI’s highly regarded Far East sales and distribution staff.

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