March 11, 2010 2:00 am

Allen's task is to ensure EMI's record is a long-player

What with the loss of the Rolling Stones , the on-off sale of Abbey Road studios, and the legal infighting with Citigroup in one court and Pink Floyd in another, EMI under Terra Firma's ownership is already the most public private equity deal ever. But the sudden departure of Elio Leoni-Sceti as chief executive of EMI Music, and his replacement by Charles Allen , adding executive powers to the chairmanship, is a new way for Guy Hands to keep the music group in the headlines.

After the biscuiteer (Eric Nicoli, ex-United Biscuits, who led the group when it was a listed company) and the detergent expert (Mr Leoni-Sceti, formerly at Reckitt Benckiser) comes the man who spent his six years at the helm of British broadcasters Granada and ITV trying to play down his reputation as a mere accountant.

Mind you, it is probably accountants that EMI needs, as it approaches a mid-June deadline for the group to raise new funds from investors.

Mr Leoni-Sceti's official exit line is the easy-to-parody "my job here is now done". That assertion is debatable. When he joined in 2008, the Reckitt executive was supposed to "shape, drive and lead EMI to become the world's most artist-focused and consumer-friendly music company". The scratchiness of relations with established artists is a symptom of wider concern about the way Terra Firma has split artist and repertoire (A&R) executives from the marketing of albums and a sign the first goal has not yet been achieved. But short of putting Lily rather than Charles Allen in the executive hotseat, no executive change was likely to damp the divas' distress.

The more important targets are still the operational ones. EMI Music's higher sales, bigger market share and stronger margins - up from below 5 per cent in the year before Mr Leoni-Sceti's arrival to nearer 15 per cent in 2008-09 - are signs of progress. Mr Allen's goal now is clear: to sustain that record, or, as he puts it, "to ensure [EMI Music] has a great future" - or possibly any future at all. To comment, visit

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