Nicoli Bounces Back

A year after presiding over the sale of EMI to Guy Hands’ Terra Firma investment group, former company chief exec Eric Nicoli is returning to the music business.

He’ll have his fingers in a couple of pies, according to a report in the Sunday Times that appeared around the same time Nicoli collected the last installment of his £1.7 million EMI payoff.

Nicoli is said to be taking an advisory role with Nick Stewart & Associates, the music marketing company founded by the man who signed U2 to Island Records in the early ’80s. He’s also said to be involved in what Nicoli describes as “a new label concept” with Scottish entrepreneur David Richie.

“I am excited about working with people that have the capability, the imagination and the integrity to succeed in the future music industry,” Nicoli told The Times.

During his final year at EMI, the latter part of it spent as chairman and chief exec, Nicoli believed the company would be able to trade its way out of a trough if he made some major cuts.

His final balance sheet showed EMI’s year-on-year profits before tax and adjustments fell from £118.1 million to a loss of £263.6 million. His cost-cutting was made to look more like scissor-snipping compared to the broadsword Hands has wielded.

Nicoli, who has spent his sabbatical finding more time for his four children and improving his golf “beyond recognition,” said if he had to pick a year when it was best not to be in business, the last one wouldn’t have been a bad choice.

Recent figures suggest Hands’ cuts and improved sales in international markets have put EMI’s recorded music business back in the black. However, many analysts are unsure whether his decision to buy the only U.K.-based major label – one of the last big deals before the credit crunch kicked in – was a smart move.