As the final hours of the 2010s ticked away, one piece of unfinished business was left on Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge’s plate: finalizing the deal that would give the Chinese technology firm Tencent 10% of the world’s largest record company and pin its value at over $33 billion.
By New Year’s Eve, Grainge had more reason than most to pop champagne, as UMG’s French parent, Vivendi, closed the sale. The agreement represents a dramatic step in the music industry’s incredible turnaround over the last decade (global revenue from recorded music had bottomed out at around $15 billion in 2014, but rose to $19.1 billion by 2018, according to the global trade organization IFPI). For Grainge, who had made a series of big bets at UMG — buying EMI Recorded Music for about $1.9 billion in 2012, for example — it’s also personal validation.
“The company that we’ve built is what attracted them to us,” Grainge tells Billboard from UMG’s offices in Santa Monica, Calif., a few days into the new decade. “It’s going to be great for the company, it’s going to be great for us, our artists, our staff, Vivendi, Tencent.”