EMI Cleaning House?

U.K. media are speculating that EMI wants to appoint a British cleaning product manufacturer’s European business chief to head up its recorded music division.

The news comes after the London-based label spent a year looking for a group chief executive. If the reports are true, it would appear EMI owner Terra Firma may have decided to appoint separate chiefs for EMI Music and EMI Music Publishing.

Reckitt Benckiser PLC’s  Elio Leoni-Sceti, who oversees a range of household brands including Dettol, Harpic, Calgon, Nurofen and Clearasil, is one of six candidates in talks with Terra Firma chief Guy Hands, according to Financial Times.

Although Terra Firma is said to be dealing with problems caused by borrowing £2.4 billion ($4.78 billion) just before the credit crunch, the Sunday Telegraph is reporting that a clampdown on costs and improved international sales have pushed EMI’s recorded music sector to the black.

Quoting figures that Hands reportedly revealed to 150 of Terra Firma’s major investors at their annual meeting in London at the beginning of June, the paper said the company made nearly £40 million ($79.8 million) in April and May. It is a significant turnaround from the £17 million the company lost in the same period last year.

Hands reportedly told his audience that the improved figures are partly due to a reduction in the percentage of CDs returned from retailers, which have dropped from 40 percent to 20 percent since he clamped down on the costly practice of overshipping.

Other key factors were pre-orders of the new Coldplay album and a Radiohead greatest hits record, although Radiohead has left the company and distanced itself from the release of the compilation.