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Lots of chatter about a high-level partnership forming around the Justin Timberlake brand, said to involve an album in the fourth quarter—his first release since 2006.

I.B. BAD GOES BEHIND THE SCENES OF A CORPORATE COLD WAR

The Latest Episode of the Serial Drama That Is the Record Biz Features Len Blavatnik, Lucian Grainge and Special Guest Justin Timberlake!
Len Blavatnik’s Warner Music is spending millions on lawyers, consultants and lobbyists in a determined effort to kill the UMG-EMI merger, fomenting an unprecedented level of animosity between the two majors—one that some believe will be felt for years to come.

It will be interesting to see how this cold war plays out, especially in Europe, as wonderers wonder whether any of the assets Universal will be forced to divest will wind up in Warner’s hands. Other possible buyers include Sony Music, Martin MillsBeggars Group, Essential, PIAS, Edel, Cooking Vinyl and BMG/KKR. Blavatnik claims that he’s not a seller even if he doesn’t manage to derail the merger. The Russian billionaire’s spin is that the company will be part of his holdings and an asset for his estate.

Meanwhile, those rumors that have Roger Faxon replacing Stephen Cooper as Warner CEO persist—although they now appear to be losing a bit of traction—amid an unusual set of circumstances regarding Faxon’s buyout when the UMG-EMI deal closes. Faxon is expected to play a role during the transition, but the question everyone is asking is, who will run EMI once it formally becomes part of Universal? Craig Kallman’s name is frequently coming up as a possible candidate.

Coincidentally, the Big Jon Platt-to-WMG speculation is also out there, the prevailing belief being that Platt will enter into a joint venture with Warner/Chappell and become a key member of Cameron Strang’s team, as the pubco continues the process of revitalization, increasing its marketshare and profits. Most observers are surprised that Marty Bandier didn’t make Platt an offer, but Roc Nation is believed to remain a contender. Wherever he goes, will Platt’s deal also involve records?

In other current negotiations, the deals of RCA’s Joe Riccitelli and Republic’s Joel Klaiman—widely considered to be the two best promotion executives—are up, but both promo domos are expected to stay put with new long-term contracts.

Incoming Interscope President/COO John Janick plans to keep his publishing company, Fueled by Music, a joint venture with Warner/Chappell, while working under the Universal umbrella. Janick’s writers include Fun.’s Nate Ruess—who’s now an in-demand tunesmith—and Paramore’s Hayley Williams.

In the modern era, no major label has yet done what Rob Stringer and Steve Barnett’s Columbia has accomplished year to date—registering a mind-boggling 13.2% new-release marketshare for the first six months of the year. No other label has exceeded 10%.
 
Lots of chatter about a high-level partnership forming around the Justin Timberlake brand, said to involve an album in the fourth quarter—his first release since FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006 (4.375m)—followed by a major tour next year. Timberlake is repped by Johnny Wright for music and Rick Yorn for film.

That Clear Channel head of programming Tom Poleman had his pick of the top acts for the second annual iHeartRadio Music Festival—and managed to get them at well below market value to boot—is a testament to radio’s continuing primacy in breaking records. CC’s new policy of actually partnering with the labels in terms of breaking acts takes a page from Bob Pittman’s MTV playbook. Will Pittman’s plan, which is essentially to create a new multi-platform business model, throw off enough revenue to validate this ambitious strategy?

As Vivendi Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou reportedly lobbies the European Commission to approve the UMG-EMI merger, those close to the action insist that Lucian Grainge and his team fully expected the EC’s demand for major concessions in its statement of objections, whose contents were leaked to the Financial Times last week. But the British newspaper’s assertion that the deal could be in big trouble, while it makes for good copy, is misleading.

UMG’s biggest problem isn’t that the EMI acquisition will be vetoed—a highly unlikely outcome considering that 25 of the last 27 deals that went to a Phase II were eventually approved by the EC, including Sony-BMG. Rather, it’s that these stipulated divestitures as conditions of regulatory approval could result in a buyers’ market, and the selling off of assets at below market value could conceivably turn what initially appeared to be a good deal into a not-so-good deal. What specific divestitures will satisfy the EC’s concerns over marketshare dominance? Insiders believe these assets will be the catalogs of various EMI and UMG labels.

Names in the rumor mill: Allen Grubman, Brenda Romano, Tom Freston, Danny Strick and Mike Green.

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