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The colorful record exec, who launched V2 Records in 1996 four years after selling Virgin Records to Thorn EMI for $800 million, has sold 95% of his stake in the U.K. label to U.S. bank Morgan Stanley.

BRANSON BIDS RECORD BIZ BYE-BYE

Richard Branson's Virgin Group Sells Its Stake in V2 Records to Morgan Stanley for Undisclosed Sum
What a long, strange trip it’s been for Richard Branson, from hot air balloons to condoms.

The colorful record exec, who launched V2 Records in 1996 four years after selling Virgin Records to Thorn EMI for $800 million, has sold 95% of his stake in the U.K. label to U.S. bank Morgan Stanley.

The bank has been a "significant equity holder" in V2 since 2002, when it converted $128 million in bonds into a 47.5% equity stake in the London-based independent label.

Branson is believed to retain the remaining 5%. According to a statement, his Virgin Group will maintain a "long term interest in the company's progress."

The U.K. label's existing management under London-based CEO Tony Harlow will "continue to develop and improve the company under its new ownership." 

The record company’s U.K. roster includes such artists as the Stereophonics, Paul Weller and Bloc Party with worldwide revenues at around $94 million.

In 2005, Sheridan Square Entertainment acquired the assets of V2 North America, which is now distributed in the U.S. by WEA. The label inked the White Stripes through a distribution deal for the band’s Third Man label, and is set to release Jack White’s eagerly awaited new project, the Raconteurs.

The new deal signals the exit of Branson’s Virgin Group from the recording business. According to the statement, the entertainment conglomerate has "made the strategic decision to rationalize their portfolio of other content-led businesses." Virgin Group just made a deal with cable television operator NTL to offer a “one-stop shop” for cable television, mobile telecom services and broadband Internet under the Virgin brand.

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