Universal and Sony the sole remaining competitors for American firm after snapping up the home of Coldplay and Kylie
Warner’s owner, Len Blavatnik, has beaten rival bids from Simon Fuller, founder of the American Idol TV series, who teamed up with Island Records‘ founder Chris Blackwell, and an alliance between Sony and BMG.
As the label that signed the Beatles, Parlophone was the jewel in the crown of UK major EMI. It was put up for sale on the orders of the European commission, as a condition of the £1.2bn acquisition of EMI by Universal Music.
The deal is a victory for Blavatnik, the billionaire part-owner of the Russian oil conglomerate TNK-BP, who had been involved in past attempts to merge Warner with EMI.
“This is a very important milestone for Warner Music, reflecting our commitment to artist development by strengthening our worldwide roster, global footprint and executive talent,” said Blavatnik. As part of the deal, Warner is also acquiring the Chrysalis and Ensign labels, as well as EMI’s recorded music operations in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Sweden.
Parlophone is the oldest active label at EMI and one of its most prestigious. It began life as Britain’s leading jazz label before becoming part of Columbia Records, which was in turn swallowed by EMI. When the producer and composer Sir George Martin took over as manager in 1955, he began with comedy recordings by the Goons and Peter Sellers. The breakthrough came in 1962, when Martin, now known as the Fifth Beatle, signed a Liverpool band who were to become the world’s most commercially successful musicians. The Beatles catalogue, however, is not part of the Parlophone deal.
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