Fox To Make Great Escape

HMV Group chief exec Simon Fox will make the keynote speech at The Great Escape, where he’s expected to discuss HMV’s ambitions within the live music business and how the sector can best work with the rest of the industry.

It could be sticky ground as his British retailer is struggling to meet bank covenants on £130 million worth of debt, with about £46 million of it down to last year’s acquisition of MAMA Group.

Although analysts agree that High St. music retailers must diversify to survive, some have argued that HMV’s purchase of MAMA’s venues, festivals and management company has tied up too much money in the live sector.

The latest speculation surrounding the company says Hilco, which specialises in snapping up distressed retailers such as Allied Carpets, Habitat and MK One, is considering a takeover bid.

It was originally thought to be looking to buy the entire company, but the latest stories say it’s now focusing its interest on HMV’s Canadian operation.

HMV’s stores in Canada are one of the assets the company could sell to help it place itself on sounder financial footing, but the Waterstone’s book chain in the UK could also be sold.

Fox is a convincing and entertaining talker and his March 17 speech at the Retail Week conference in London perked HMV shares 32 percent from 11.5 pence to 15.25 pence, but that’s only half of what they were worth at the beginning of the year.

Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut has increased his holding in HMV, prompting stories that he’s considering buying the company, so there must be some doubt that Fox will still be in charge when the Brighton gathering opens May 12.

The contact between HMV and potential bidders for parts of the company come as it attempts to secure its lenders’ backing for a revamped business plan.

The keynote debate will centre on “the direct-to-fan phenomenon,” when the speakers will include Topspin chief exec CEO Ian Rogers, Bandcamp adviser Andrew Dubber and PRS For Music’s chief economist Will Page.

This year’s The Great Escape is at Queens Hotel, Brighton, May 12-14. The live acts confirmed include Friendly Fires, DJ Shadow, Sufjan Stevens, Katy B, The Vaccines, Frank Turner, and The Naked and Famous.