POWER MOVE: A $130 million stake in Deezer -- the expanding French streaming service -- grows music holdings that already include WMG and now encompass Parlophone.
THE RUNDOWN: A Russian-born, billionaire Harvard Business School graduate, Len Blavatnik orchestrates his growing empire through Access Industries, a holding company with a diversified portfolio, including ownership of Warner Music Group, the world’s third-largest music company. He is the only person who owns a major music group. Last year, Blavatnik expanded his music footprint by investing $130 million for “a significant minority stake” in Deezer, a profitable French music streaming service.
Just hours after this issue of Billboard was printed, Blavatnik and Access acquired EMI’s legendary Parlophone label, with a roster that includes Coldplay, Gorillaz, Kylie Minogue and Blur. Access beat out a number of other heavyweights, including a combined offer from Sony and BMG, for the Parlophone Label Group, which was put up for sale by Universal Music Group in order to secure the blessings of European antitrust officials for UMG’s acquisition of EMI.
Blavatnik, whose $12.5 billion estimated net worth makes him the 72nd richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine, easily can afford to outbid his rivals. But he’s unlikely to pay a penny more than he believes the business is worth. That disciplined approach -- honed through his experience investing in oil, gas and chemical industries -- means he has bowed out of a number of frothy transactions, including the sales of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2010 and EMI in 2011.
Blavatnik’s level-headed style may still serve him well. In acquiring Parlophone, he got a substantial piece of EMI without having to endure the pain and considerable expense of mollifying antitrust regulators.