McGee hopes Love will help turn struggling Poptones into profit

Poptones, the record company founded by Alan McGee that narrowly avoided going bust last year, hinted yesterday that it was close to signing Hole, the grunge rock band fronted by the singer and actress Courtney Love.

The deal would be a coup for Poptones, a niche record label, which is struggling to replicate the success it had with The Hives. The hitherto obscure Swedish garage-rock act has become a music sensation since Mr McGee, who famously launched Oasis's career, spotted the group two years ago.

Mike Blackburn, Poptones' chairman said: "Were [Courtney Love] to sign, that would be a seriously big story. There isn't a contract yet but we are hopeful that there might be." The grunge singer, who is also the widow of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, was signed to Universal, but the relationship ended last week.

Poptones, which signed a joint venture deal with Telstar Records, the distributor, in February, said the success of The Hives had helped it to narrow its pre-tax losses in the year to end June to £364,000 from £1.03m.

Mr Blackburn said the actions taken in the past year, which included axeing all non-board staff members, coupled with the deal from Telstar and Mr McGee's ability to spot new acts, meant the company could "look forward to the future with more confidence than we otherwise might".

While The Hives, whose album Your New Favourite Band reached platinum status with more than 300,000 sales, have since left Poptones, the company remains hopeful that the time will come for some of its other acts. These range from Ping Pong Bitches, a disco-punk outfit to the gay Mexican Elvis impersonator, El Vez.

Mr Blackburn, a former chief executive of Halifax bank, now HBOS, said the company had £705,000 of cash in the bank at the end of September, which would "certainly" see it through the next 12 months. However, he cautioned that life in the music industry remained tough. "It's obviously a business which is subject to fashion and trends so you could never say it is all smooth waters from here on."

As boss of Creation Records, Mr McGee, also discovered Primal Scream, the Boo Radleys and Super Furry Animals.

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