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Martin Bandier, chairman and co-chief executive of EMI Music Publishing, has held talks with Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman about taking a position at the rival company, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr Bandier, who is considered something of a legend in the music publishing business, is expected to fly to London next month to meet with EMI executives about his future. He is also mulling other opportunities outside EMI, these people said, noting that no decisions had been made.
Mr Bandier and EMI declined to comment on Thursday, except to say that the executive remained under contract. Under a succession plan, his deputy, Roger Faxon is to become sole chief executive of the group in six months, followed by Mr Bandier’s retirement a year later.
The meetings with Mr Bronfman mark the latest chapter in the tortuous relationship between EMI and Warner. The two companies called off merger talks two months ago because of regulatory concerns, marking their third failed attempt at marriage since 1999.
Mr Bandier’s defection could lead to further upheaval in the music publishing industry, whose practitioners collect small amounts of money when their artists’ songs are played in television commercials, films, on mobile phone ring-tones and in other venues or media.
Once considered the sleepy side of the music business, publishing’s steady earnings have become highly-coveted at a time when the industry is facing the ravages of piracy and an uncertain transition to digital distribution.
Earlier this month, Universal Music, the largest record company, agreed to pay $2.1bn – or roughly 20-times ebitda – for Bertelsmann’s BMG music publishing group.
Warner made it through to the last round of bidding. In addition to its many digital initiatives, Mr Bronfman, has also made it a priority for the company to revitalise its publishing division. Several private equity groups, including Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts, GTCR and Goldman Sachs, also expressed interest.
Mr Bandier built EMI’s music publishing group into the dominant player in the business before it was eclipsed by the Universal deal.
However, he has long held ambitions of taking the division private under his leadership, according to people familiar with the matter.