Hopes high for music industry veteran's turnaround powers

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The Independent Online

The music meisters at EMI believe Alain Levy is the man to turn the troubled company round and agreed last October to pay him a bumper pay package worth £35m over three years. But does he have what it takes?

The suave Frenchman has spent his entire career in the music business. After he gained an MBA at America's famous Wharton Business School he moved to New York in 1972 at the age of 26 to become assistant to the President of CBS International, now Sony Music.

Twelve years later he took up the offer of heading the French operations of PolyGram. Mr Levy made his name in the music business at PolyGram, of which he became president in 1991 after he steered the company through a number of astute deals to make it the world's largest and most profitable music company prior to its takeover by Seagram in 1998.

Some of the deals Mr Levy negotiated brought stars such as U2 and Sting on to the books of PolyGram, but he has had less of a magic touch with other forms of entertainment. He poured huge sums into building a film division for PolyGram, and despite producing hits such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mr Bean and Dead Man Walking, created very little return.

Since leaving Polygram in 1998, Mr Levy's choice of directorships have not been distinguished. The two he chose, Boxman.com and Digital Broadcasting Company, have either gone into liquidation or collapsed.

Mr Levy, 56, looks the part for his return to the music business, eschewing suits for tight black T-shirts and smartly cut trousers. But he still has to prove to the City that he is up to the mammoth task of making EMI's star rise again.

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