Outlook: EMI's husband and wife soap opera

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The Independent Online
Ken and Nancy Berry lead colourful lives on behalf of EMI over in the US of A. Late night parties at Los Angeles' Opium Den, visits to the Vault, one of New York's flashest clubs, nipping backstage to hob nob with U2 and offering their Bel Air home as a crash-pad for itinerant rock stars. These are just some of the chores that fill up their working day.

But that, as they say, is rock'n'roll. The question is how much longer the rather more sedate Sir Colin Southgate and the rest of the EMI board are inclined to put up with it. As President of EMI Recorded Music, Mr Berry is one of the most powerful stars in the EMI firmament and one of the executives identified only last May by Sir Colin as "the next generation of management".

He is also an ally of his direct boss, "Lucky" Jim Fifield, who until last Friday looked assured of taking over the helm from Sir Colin and then handing it on in four years time to Mr Berry. Sir Colin's decision to deprive Lucky of his prize has created a crisis of succession at EMI. If not Mr Fifield and his protege, then who?

This would be bad news at any time. But with a company that has performed as abysmally as EMI since demerger, its shares having fallen by more than a third, it could be terminal. Before the demerger, EMI was tipped to be taken out at an astronomic premium. Now it is beginning to look as jaded as its star band, The Spice Girls, who incidentally, also got their first big break on the Berry's Bel Air patio. Sir Peter Walters and Sir Graham Day, two of EMI's non-executive knights, may not be hip with the beat like Jim, Ken and Nancy. But unless they persuade Sir Colin to skip to it and sort out the management succession, he and EMI are toast.