Helter Skelter Joins A Healthy Stable

A day after Vivendi chief Jean-Bernard Levy told Wall Street that Universal Music Group is the only "healthy and stable" company in the industry, agents from London’s Helter Skelter were meeting their new bosses in a Hampshire hotel.

Paul Franklin, Paul Bolton, Adam Saunders and Nigel Hassler (Pete Nash is in New York on paternity leave) were among the remaining Sanctuary staff who met with Universal Music international execs at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hook September 19-20.

Centenary, a Universal-owned investment vehicle, paid £44.5 million (20 pence cash per share) for Sanctuary at the beginning of August.

The French-owned outfit, the world’s largest music company, has since closed the British company’s U.K. record label but made it clear it wants to develop its management (including 21st Artistes), merchandising (Bravado) and agency divisions.

"Helter Skelter will continue as a stand-alone business, and should benefit from investment on our part – which was tough for the ‘old’ Sanctuary to do of late," a Universal spokesman told Pollstar mid-August.

There was no press release on the Hampshire meet-and-greet or any details of exactly what was discussed.

The company’s five major agents, who all have about two years left on their contracts, are believed to be among those who spoke at the various meetings. All are known to be open-minded about being owned by a major record company.

The agency has shrunk since Steve Strange and Jeff Craft followed Ian Huffam out the door and joined him in setting up X-Ray Touring with Martin Horne and Scott Thomas from International Talent Booking. Also, Emma Banks and Mike Greek quit to join Creative Artists Agency’s new London office, but the agency still has such acts as Amy Winehouse, Avril Lavigne, Corinne Bailey Rae, Craig David, Dixie Chicks, Faithless, James Morrison, Kaiser Chiefs, Kings Of Leon and Natalie Imbruglia on its European rep list.

Current industry trends, and the London live music business grapevine, suggest that in a couple of years Helter Skelter won’t be the only U.K. agency to be owned by a major record company.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, Levy said his company was "immune" to business cycles because 70 percent of its revenues are subscriber-based.

In addition to Universal, Vivendi holds a 20 percent stake in NBC Universal, has telecom operations in France and Morocco, the French Canal Plus pay TV stations and Vivendi Games, the publisher of role-playing game "World of Warcraft," which has millions of subscribers.

"There is no limit to what Universal Music can do," Levy told the September 19 gathering of U.S. businessmen at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. "Everyone understands it is the only stable company in the industry."