Legendary AIR Studios, Founded By George Martin, Sold to Russian Investor

Eamonn McCabe/Redferns
Portrait of record producer Sir George Martin in the recording studio in London in the 1990s. 

London's world famous AIR Studios, originally founded by Beatles producer Sir George Martin in 1969, has been sold to a Russian investor for an undisclosed sum.

The studio was put up for sale earlier this year by its owners Richard Boote and Paul Woolf, both aged in their late 60s, who wanted to pass it on to someone younger who could grow the business.

Its new owner has not been officially named, but Billboard understands it to be Maxim Demin, a Russian businessman who has fully owned British Premier League soccer club Bournemouth since 2013.

The Financial Times has also named Demin -- a low profile figure who does not give press interviews and is believed to have made his fortune in the petrochemicals industry -- as AIR's buyer. The studio, based at Lyndhurst Hall in Hampstead, North London, is yet to comment.

Speaking to Billboard, Woolf would not discuss who had bought the historic studio, or for how much, but did say that the new owner was committed to investing in the business and preserving AIR's status as one of the world's premier recording facilities.

"They have met all our staff and reassured them about the future of the studio and investment into the studio and that's exactly the kind of buyer we were looking for. We wanted someone who wanted to maintain it and that we could pass on the baton to. We're super delighted," explains Woolf.

He says the sale generated enquiries from around 25 parties -- "some half interested, some more interested than others" -- including "big media conglomerates" that already have stakes in the music business.

Not every offer shared its sellers' vision of how the business should be taken over, though. "We had one offer from someone who wanted to turn it into a live venue. We had someone else who had a big vision of turning it into something else entirely. There were people who loved the idea of buying it, but had no money. Other people who had the money, but had no idea what they wanted to do with it – a whole mix." recalls Woolf.

The eventual buyer made an offer after visiting the studio and seeing it for themselves. "They walked in and said, 'I want it.' They were absolutely determined to buy it. They said they love music. Had always wanted to buy a recording studio and wanted to continue the process we had started," says Woolf. The deal took just under a month to go through, from initial offer to the date of completion on September 14. 

Its former owner says he's pleased that the studio has remained a privately owned business and has not been bought up by a multinational conglomerate. "The atmosphere and ethos at AIR has never been corporate, so we were very pleased when the buyer turned up because it meant that family culture at the heart of AIR would continue. I would say that there is definitely a cultural difference when you're owned by individuals than when you're owned by a corporation."

Originally founded by Martin in 1969 and based at Lyndhurst Hall since 1991, AIR studios has been used by some of the biggest names in music with Paul McCartney, Adele, Coldplay, U2, Muse, George Michael, Kate Bush, Liam Gallagher, David Gilmour, Mumford & Sons, Scott Walker and Katy Perry among the many world famous artists to have recorded there.

The facility's cavernous hexagonal shaped 300m squared live room -- big enough to house a full symphony orchestra and choir simultaneously -- has also made AIR an in-demand booking for film composers, with scores for Mission Impossible: FalloutDarkest Hour, Dunkirk and Wonder Woman among recent projects recorded at AIR.

Last fall, the studio won a two-year legal battle to stop a neighbor from building a basement cinema, sauna, hot tub and swimming pool that AIR's then-owners feared would force the complex to close down. George Michael and Queen's Brian May were among the signatories of an open letter opposing the plans, while more 13,000 people signed a petition in support of the historic studio.