A select few to transfer as Universal shuts V2's UK office

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Music Week understands that around five members of V2's approximately 45 staff will be transferred to Universal, with the rest facing redundancy. A senior figure at Universal insists, however, that "consultation is ongoing".

It is understood that the select few V2 staff transferring will include CEO Tony Harlow and head of new media and business development Beth Appleton, although it is unclear at present what role the pair will play.

Music Week also understands that, prior to purchasing V2 in August, Universal approached a number of key V2 staff in an attempt to lure them to the major.

Managing director David Steele will be among those made redundant, as will members of the team that worked on the chart-topping campaign for Stereophonics' current Pull The Pin album, including senior marketing manager Claire Moon.

Steele confirms that only a "small percentage" of V2 staff will transfer to Universal. "It's generally pretty much closing the whole operation down," he says.

"We thought that we would maybe continue as a feeder label, upstreaming new bands to Universal," adds Steele. "No one led us to believe that, but that's what we had hoped.

"The reality of it is that they like some of our artists and they like the Co-Op side of things - some of us hoped that they would try to re-energise the whole label and some feared that they would just asset-strip it. Obviously it appears to be the latter.

"But that's the way the whole industry is going. Labels get bought and they lose their identity, and V2 is another one that's gone."

Nevertheless, Steele says that he remains immensely proud of his V2 team, and reflects that there is a certain bittersweetness in the label closing during a week when its first signing, Stereophonics, have once again topped the albums chart.

"It's a real achievement in this day and age to have a band have five number-one albums," says Steele. "People have put an awful lot of work into the Stereophonics campaign - it's the caring and having people that are passionate about their music that's one of the differences between an independent and a major.

"We bought into the whole spirit and idea of V2. Our original concept was to have a great label like the old Island or Virgin; based on a great roster of career artists. I was very proud of our roster and the talented staff we had working them. It's a very sad day that a company that I've been involved with for 11 years will cease to be."

While Stereophonics have undoubtedly been a success story for V2, that success belies the fact that V2 has had a difficult history financially. By 2000 the company had accumulated losses of more than £100m, and while its gradual takeover by Morgan Stanley has seen those losses reduce, from 1997 to 2006 a total turnover of £367m generated losses of £259m.

Universal did not wish to comment on how widespread redundancies would be or the timetable for transition. In a statement issued last week, it would only say that "regrettably... there will be redundancies".

"In the UK, the label will be aligned with Mercury Records under president Jason Iley, while Co-op Music will expand under the ongoing leadership of Vincent Clery-Melin," the company adds.

Additional questions remain over a number of V2 acts, with one source telling Music Week that Paul Weller - who has been with V2 since the release of his Studio 150 album in 2004 - is still in the dark about how he will be incorporated into Universal's roster.

Music Week understands that the V2 name will remain as the label begins its new incarnation under the Mercury banner and the supervision of Iley.

Steele characterises the mood at V2 as "glum and very sad". "Everyone has a great team spirit here, and they love working for the company - we feel close to our artists and they feel close to us," he says. "That closeness has been taken away."


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