Will Simon Fuller be top of the pops? Cowell's rival has a £350m plan to snatch EMI's crown jewels

 

He's the svengali to the stars who sits in Andy Murray's VIP box, masterminded the Spice Girls and turned Pop Idol into a £15 billion global brand. Now Simon Fuller is plotting to outmanoeuvre his great rival, Simon Cowell, by buying EMI's assets, including the famous Parlophone music label, in an audacious £350 million deal.

The Independent has learned that Fuller, 52, is putting together a bid to buy the 60 per cent of EMI's businesses in Europe, which EC regulators ordered must be sold off after the British record company was bought by the Universal Music giant for £1.2bn.

If successful, the British entrepreneur who revolutionised US television with American Idol will become the new owner of Parlophone, the EMI imprint which is home to Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Blur and Tinie Tempah.

He would also take control of the valuable recording catalogues of Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and David Bowie, the Chrysalis (Spandau Ballet) and Mute (Depeche Mode) record labels, and 50 per cent of the best-selling Now! That's What I Call Music compilations.

The stable of stars would be added to a client list which includes David and Victoria Beckham, the Grand Slam-winning Murray and Lewis Hamilton, the Formula 1 star, who negotiated a £60m switch from McLaren to Mercedes under Fuller's guidance.

The deal would allow Fuller, who began his career as a record company talent scout and formed The Spice Girls, to challenge Simon Cowell as the most powerful talent-broker in the music industry.

Fuller hired Cowell as a judge on American Idol but accused him of copying his format when he quit to launch The X Factor. Fuller's new record empire would rival Syco, the company dominated by X Factor-created stars which Cowell runs in partnership with Sony Music.

Fuller, who runs the XIX Entertainment company, will be joined in the EMI bid by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, which discovered Bob Marley and U2, private financiers and a leading mobile telecommunications company.

A spokesman said: "XIX is a growing company and we'd always be interested in new opportunities in music as they arise. With Simon's track record over 25 years as Britain's most successful music manager we hope his interest in EMI would carry the support of the industry."

This week Parlophone artists such as Blur expressed concern that they were being traded in a corporate takeover. Sources said Fuller aims to win their support by pledging to maximise the royalties they earn.

Fuller plans to relaunch the threatened Now! compilations series as a weekly television and web show featuring stars such as Jay-Z and Madonna performing their latest hits, alongside a download chart rundown. "Simon can launch new television vehicles using hit songs, there could be a Coldplay American Idol special. He understands the sensitivities that artists have about their futures," an associate said.

Fuller can expect competition for the EMI assets from Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Rights Management, a joint venture between a private-equity group and the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Industry insiders believe Universal, which is overseeing the sale, could favour Fuller's bid. Lucian Grainge, British boss of Universal, has worked with Fuller on several projects including the pop band S Club 7.

The Cyprus-born Fuller enjoys a lower profile than Cowell, although he is regularly spotted sitting with Andy Murray's team at Grand Slam matches. He sold his initial 19 Entertainment company, which discovered Amy Winehouse, for $210m (£130m) in 2005.

Fuller's current projects include a talent show for Hispanic entertainers fronted by Jennifer Lopez for the Fox network and the Spice Girls musical, Viva Forever, which receives its London premiere in December.

Star quality: Group assets

For sale: EMI Recording Limited, including Parlophone label with artists Coldplay, David Guetta, Pet Shop Boys, Lily Allen, Tinie Tempah, Blur, Gorillaz and Kylie Minogue.

Back catalogues from Pink Floyd, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Duran Duran and Kraftwerk.

EMI labels – Chrysalis and Mute Records.

EMI Classics/Virgin Classics artists and composers. EMI's share in the Now That's What I Call Music! compilations.

Estimated value: $600m (£370m).

Simon Cowell

Age: 52

Born: London

Wealth: £225m

Is he single?: Still unmarried

School: Expelled from private Dover College, Kent, for smoking and drinking

Houses: Mansions in Holland Park, Beverly Hills, luxury yacht for Caribbean & St Tropez holidays

Car: Lamborghini, Ferrari 458 Italia, Rolls-Royces, Bugatti Veyron…

Big Break: Record company talent scout who created So Macho pop hit for Sinitta

Big Hits: The X Factor airs in 160 countries and has sold 100 million records, Got Talent global TV format, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, One Direction, Westlife, Il Divo, Paul Potts.

Big Deal: His Syco Entertainment has a profit-share venture with Sony Music that could earn Cowell £1bn

Simon Fuller

Age: 52

Born: Cyprus

Net worth: £375m

Is he single? Married to Natalie Swanston, with one daughter

School: Grammar school in Hastings where his father was headmaster

Houses: 13 properties including homes in Los Angeles, New York, London and France

Car: Range Rover Evoque designed by Victoria Beckham

Big Break: Managed the Spice Girls

Big hits: Idols format including American Idol (value $25bn), So You Think You Can Dance US TV series, and agent for David and Victoria Beckham, Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton, Jennifer Lopez, Will Young, Lisa Marie Presley and Annie Lennox

Big Deal: Sold 19 Entertainment to CKX Inc. for $210m in 2005

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