From Waste Recycling To EMI

Terra Firma has added Lord Birt to the supervisory board of EMI. Birt has been working with Terra Firma since December 2006, most recently on the restructuring of the Waste Recycling Group.

The 62-year-old lord is a former director general of the BBC and former prime minister Tony Blair’s head of "blue sky thinking," although in 2005 the Guardian had to use the Freedom Of Information Act to get the government to say exactly what that role involved.

Initially appointed to examine the government’s health, education and transport strategies, he also looked at ways of dealing with crime and drugs and a strategy for London redevelopment areas.

At the BBC, his cost-cutting reforms made him particularly unpopular, with top British playwright Dennis Potter describing him as a "croak-voiced Dalek."

His use of impenetrable jargon became known as "Birtspeak," which was frequently mocked in satirical magazine Private Eye.

He was also responsible for a major modernisation of BBC programming, including the removal of Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis and other veteran DJs from BBC Radio 1. This turned BBC Radio 1 into a much more youth-oriented station, although its popularity began to decline.

Terra Firma CEO Guy Hands has described his firm’s purchase of EMI as a "classic example" of the equity group’s strategy of looking for "the worst businesses we can find in the most challenging sector." He said the firm was "just hoping EMI is as bad as we think it is."

He also told a Royal Television Society media convention in Cambridge he has no intention of selling EMI’s recorded music division.

"We’re determined to keep that part of the business and we’re determined to make it viable," Hands told the Cambridge conference delegates.

Terra Firma paid £2.4 billion and took on £800 million worth of EMI debt to buy the company and take it private. EMI issued two severe profit warnings at the beginning of the year.