Music boss Blackwell leaves his beloved Island

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The Independent Online
Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records and one of the legendary names in British music, is leaving the label, now owned by multinational company PolyGram.

In a terse statement issued last night PolyGram announced "the termination of the agreement under which Mr Blackwell's services were provided to the music and film operations of PolyGram's Island Entertainment Group". A spokeswoman said there would be no further comment.

Industry sources were speculating that the marriage of a multinational company and a supremely talented individualist had proved a difficult one, and 60-year-old Mr Blackwell will now concentrate on his chain of hotels in Miami and Jamaica.

Mr Blackwell founded Island Records in 1962 after selling Jamaican records from the boot of his car.

He championed music from Jamaica for the rest of his career, most notably the reggae star Bob Marley, who died of cancer in 1981.He became a close friend of the Marley family. But Marley was not alone among Island's landmark signings. The Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood in the Sixties, Free in the.0 Seventies and U2 in the Eighties and beyond, alongside Britpop idols Pulp as well as The Cranberries, were all signed to Island.

PolyGram bought Island Records in 1989 for $272m (pounds 165m), keeping Mr Blackwell on as chairman of Island Entertainment Group.

Alain Levy, president and chief executive of Polygram said in a statement issued in New York last night that Mr Blackwell would also be leaving the board of management of PolyGram. He added: "Mr Blackwell's departure will not affect the status of Island as a stand-alone unit within the Polygram group of labels." A company spokesman refused to comment on rumours that Mr Blackwell had receieved $20m in severance pay.

Mr Blackwell was not available for comment last night. Writers at Music Week, the weekly journal of the music industry, described him yesterday as one of the most significant figures operating in the record company world in the last half century.