Sir Richard Branson eyes Virgin Records deal

 

Sir Richard Branson is considering buying back Virgin Records more than 40 years after founding the business that spawned his empire.

Universal Music, the world's biggest recorded music firm, is reportedly mulling a sale of the business to persuade regulators to give the green light to its £1.2 billion deal for EMI, whose acts include Coldplay and The Beatles.

Sir Richard today confirmed he would be interested in recapturing the firm he sold to Thorn EMI for £510 million in 1992 to help fund Virgin Atlantic's battle with British Airways, and whose acts now include Gorillaz.

He tweeted: "Looking into buying back Virgin Records - a wonderful opportunity to recreate a dynamic independent label."

It has been reported that the entrepreneur is in talks to team up with Patrick Zelnik to merge Virgin with his French label Naive Records although no formal approach had been made to Universal, owned by Vivendi.

Sir Richard founded Virgin Records in 1970 at the age of 20 as a mail order business geared towards students.

He called it Virgin because he was a complete beginner at business but it went on to become one of the best known names in British pop music.

The following year, after a postal strike threatened its future, he opened his first shop, on London's Oxford Street.

The booming business launched as a record label in 1972, allowing artists to record at his 17th century Cotswold house called The Manor in Shipton-on-Cherwell near Oxford.

The label's first releases included Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells in 1973 and it went on to sign the Sex Pistols after they were sacked by EMI.

It is now home to stars including Professor Green, Bryan Ferry and Joss Stone.

The recorded music division of EMI, Virgin Records' current owner, looks set to be bought by Universal after its private equity owner Terra Firma struggled to keep up with payments on its debts, and was seized by its bank Citigroup.

Universal's artists include Take That and the Rolling Stones and the enlarged group would control an estimated 40% of the music market in Europe and America.

But the EU reportedly sent Universal a 194-page statement of objections last month in a move forcing Universal to consider the sale of assets, including Virgin.

It is thought that Universal had hoped regulators would wave the deal through because music companies are under immense pressure from internet downloads.

PA

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