Universal Stays Busy In The U.K.

Universal Music Group is staying busy in the U.K. by reaching an agreement to buy 95 percent of the V2 Music Group from Morgan Stanley and beginning its Sanctuary Music Group shakedown with the departure of chairman Bob Ayling and three members of his team.

The terms of the V2 deal haven’t been disclosed and reports of its value vary between £7 million and £17 million.

Richard Branson founded the company in 1996, in a return to the recorded music business that he left when he sold Virgin Records to EMI Group in 1992. Last year he sold all but 5 percent of it to Morgan Stanley.

The company has V2 Records and a licensing business that includes several independent labels.

Universal Music International chairman and chief exec Lucian Grainge said V2 is recognized as a pioneer in independent music with a diverse artist roster that spans many musical genres.

He also says Universal will use its expertise in artist development and in the digital space to maximize its artists’ opportunities even further.

The V2 roster includes Paul Weller, Isabelle Boulay, and Henri Salvador, but it also has its own licensing organisation that handles emerging U.K. and European talent such as Bloc Party, The Go! Team and Peter Bjorn and John.

A Sanctuary statement to the London Stock Exchange confirmed that Ayling, James Wallace, Tina Sharp and John Preston have departed the company. The move comes a few weeks after Universal’s announcement that it’s buying the London-based music group for £44.5 million (US$87.5 million).

Wallace was senior independent non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee, Sharp was chair of the remuneration committee and Preston was a member of the audit and remuneration committee.

Sanctuary’s board will now consist of chief executive Frank Presland and finance director Paul Wallace.

Sanctuary hired Ayling in 2006 to solve some of the financial problems and irregularities that brought the company to the brink of going under.

His short tenure in the job saw the departures of chairman Andy Taylor and his company co-founder Rod Smallwood, who quit to focus on managing Iron Maiden.

Ayling upped Presland from his position as chief exec of the Sanctuary-owned Twenty-First Artists to chief exec for the whole Sanctuary operation.