Universal Music UK’s chairman and CEO David Joseph has announced the launch of Virgin EMI, an amalgamation of Universal Music subsidiary Mercury Records and Virgin Records, one of the many labels acquired by Universal in its takeover of EMI last year.
Virgin EMI will incorporate the executive staffs and artists of Mercury Records, including the Island Def Jam Music Group. Virgin and EMI will each employ their own A&R and marketing department. So while the absorption of EMI by UMG is fully completed, the EMI name will not be laid to rest.
“Virgin EMI… has an exceptionally strong A&R line-up, with sensational domestic and international artists, combined with the ethos which has served the company so well over the past 40 years,” said Universal Music UK chairman & CEO David Joseph in a statement.
Ted Cockle, named a co-president of Island in 2008, will head Virgin EMI. “Having filled the top two positions on the albums chart this month [Emile Sande and Bastille] for the first time since the Spice Girls and The Verve did it in 1998, Virgin is already feeling ready to compete at the very highest level. In the label’s 40th year, to have this incredible line-up of British artists and US repertoire of such pedigree it feels like Virgin EMI will have everything in place to help the very best talent flourish fully,” Cockle added.
Mercury Records’ managing director Jason Iley is leaving the company, though he will “continue to work closely with Universal Music on some projects,” according to a statemeent. Wrote Iley: “I’ve had an incredible journey at Universal, having worked at Polydor, Island and Mercury, and been privileged to work with some inspiring artists and executives over the past 15 years. I look forward to continuing these relationships in a new capacity and wish Ted all the very best with Virgin EMI.”
In addition to Virgin EMI, Island, Decca and Polydor, Universal Music UK also announced plans to operate fifth ‘major’ label in the UK: Capitol. Further news is expected in late April.
Stateside, Capitol Records has been filling out its Los Angeles-based executive roster over the past two months, with hires including Dennis Reese as head of promotion, Piero Giramonti as GM of Harvest Records, Mike Harris’ as EVP and GM of Caroline, Dominic Pandiscia being named president of Caroline, Ron Spaulding’s elevation to SVP of sales at Capitol, Greg Thompson’s appointment as EVP of Capitol, and Todd von Mende taking the CFO seat at Capitol in late January.
‘There And Back Again’ — Short Histories of Mercury and Virgin
Founded in 1945, Mercury would change hands and homes over a half-dozen times, including an all-out purchase of the label by PolyGram in 1972. Mercury was acquired by Universal Music Group parent company Seagram in 1998, which placed it under UMG’s Island Def Jam Music Group umbrella. In the UK, the label continued to function as an imprint of the Mercury Records Group, a subsidiary of Universal Music UK.
Virgin Records, founded in 1972, was sold by co-founder Richard Branson to the British electronics and entertainment giant Thorn EMI — which came into being in 1979 — in 1992. Four years later, EMI was de-merged from Thorn, creating EMI Group PLC. In 1998, Thorn was acquired by the Nomura Principal Finance Group, which would go on to become Terra Firma Capital Partners. The Virgin and Capitol labels were merged in July, 1999, by EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli, forming the Capitol Music Group. 2007 would prove to be a busy year for Terra Firma, divesting from Thorn and purchasing EMI. Finally, the Capitol Music Group and all its subsidiary labels were acquired by Universal Music Group in its takeover of EMI in late 2012.