EMI faces long battle to keep Robbie Williams

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The Independent Online

Robbie Williams is unlikely to sign a new recording contract until the summer, keeping EMI on tenterhooks over whether it will be able to keep one of its biggest-selling artists.

Robbie Williams, who has recorded four top-selling albums for EMI, has been out of contract since February and a full scale bid-battle has been underway for his services.

But despite reports a month ago that the singer was set to re-sign for EMI for about £40m, it is understood the bid battle is still wide open. Indeed the key round of meetings with the world's major record companies has scarcely begun. His management team have held a "beauty parade" of record labels keen to sign him. But the main meetings are not set to start until mid-May and it could be another three months after that before a deal is completed.

One source close to the negotiations said: "EMI holds the back catalogue and that is a big consideration. They are a strong contender but they are very weak in America."

EMI is facing stiff competition from all the music majors including labels owned by Universal, Warner, Sony and BMG. It is understood that all the interested parties have offered to top any deal the others are proposing.

EMI will be keen to retain the star on its roster but it risks accusations of overpaying if the company lavishes too much on one artist. EMI paid £38m to Mariah Carey earlier this year to sever her contract. The company later axed 1,800 jobs as part of a restructuring by Alain Levy, EMI's new head of recorded music.

Robbie Williams has been living in the United States but was in Germany this weekend for the launch of a new Smartcar called a Switchblade. His appearance is to benefit his charity Give It Some, which supports children from dysfunctional families in the north- west of England.

EMI Records UK has received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category, according to details of the awards announced today.