After years of speculation and near-misses, Universal Music has acquired EMI's recorded music division, EMI Music, after the company was put on the market by Citigroup following an unhappy period under the ownership of Terra Firma. The deal is worth £1.2 billion. Universal Music, owned by the French corporation Vivendi, is the world's largest record company.
EMI Music comprises a large of portfolio of labels including Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol, Capitol Latin, Capitol Records Nashville, EMI Classics, EMI CMG, EMI Records, EMI Records Nashville, Manhattan, Parlophone, Virgin Classics and Virgin Records. EMI was founded in March 1931 following the merger of the Columbia Graphophone Company and the Gramophone Company (owners of the HMV label). EMI can therefore trace its history back to 1897 or, via its relationship with Emile Berliner's United States Gramophone Company, to 1892.
From a time, just 15 years ago, when there were five 'majors' (Universal, EMI, BMG, Sony and Warner) the recorded music market, thanks to mergers and acquistions, is now dominated by just three: Universal, Sony and Warner, none now British.
Needless to say, in all reports of the sale no mention has been made of EMI's extraordinary classical catalogue nor of its current classical activities, but as most Gramophone readers will know, EMI's legacy is unrivalled and reads like a Who's Who of 20th-century interpretation. We await developments with interest.
In a separate, though not unrelated deal, EMI Music Publishing has been acquired by Sony/ATV (jointly owned by Sony and a consortium headed by the Michael Jackson Family Trust) for £1.4 billion. The catalogue contains some 1.3 million songs including many standards such as 'Over the rainbow', 'New York, New York' and 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas', not to mention hundreds of modern pop and rock classics. The chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV is Martin Bandier who, for 17 years, led EMI Music Publishing.