Universal/EMI: 56% of IMPALA back Zelnik

Universal/EMI: 56% of IMPALA back Zelnik

The majority of IMPALA's board members yesterday voted in favour of conditions suggested by the group's co-president Patrick Zelnik - which would leave the way clear for Universal's £1.2bn purchase of EMI.

Music Week understands that an anonymous 14 of IMPALA's 25 board members (56%) motioned to agree with Zelnick's in his argument for why Universal's EMI buyout would "rescue" the music industry as a whole. These include divestments - perhaps even Virgin Records - being sold directly to the independent sector.

IMPALA co-president and Naive Records founder Zelnik publicly explained his extensive reasoning for supporting the deal last night.

Despite the majority of its board agreeing with the conditions he put forward in his argument, IMPALA will continue to tell EC regulators that it opposes the acquisition.

An IMPALA spokesperson explained to Music Week this morning that members in previous meetings had voted in full unanimity against the deal, and that despite yesterday's vote, approval from over two-thirds of members would be required to reverse its public position.

Helen Smith, IMPALA chair, added: "The motion on the agenda was not whether IMPALA should change its position but whether certain remedies would be acceptable. There was also an agreement that IMPALA should insist that the regulators solve all the problems they have identified with the deal, not just the ones opposed by Patrick."

IMPALA board members include Cosmos Music Group (Sweden), Cooking Vinyl (UK), EDEL Music UK (Germany), Epitaph (Netherlands), Naive (France) and PIAS (Benelux, Spain, UK & France). They also include Beggars Group (UK), led by Martin Mills - who remains staunchly and publicly opposed to the deal, amongst others.

An IMPALA statement released this morning said:

"At an IMPALA board meeting yesterday, the board voted to continue its opposition to the Universal/EMI merger, underlining its concerns that any remedies would have to be able to deal with the concerns raised by the European regulators regarding the impact of the merger. IMPALA will comment on any proposed remedies in due course when the EC market tests them. The EC is subject to strict rules and has to ensure any undertakings completely eliminate all problems identified, otherwise it is obliged to reject the proposed remedies.

"IMPALA agrees that digital companies are giants and need proper regulation, but the problem is that excessive concentration in the music sector would help Universal mould services towards its own interests and obtain more than its fair share of exposure. This result repeats itself all the way from offline to access to media to signing artists. That is the underlying issue which needs to be addressed. From where we are sitting right now with what we know about the EC's objections, that seems a tall order.

"IMPALA has made its position clear to the European Commission. The rules governing the European Commission's approach to dealing with remedies are set out in a remedies notice, which it is obliged to comply with.

"IMPALA normally takes decisions by consensus and its statutes allow decisions to be taken by two thirds majority in the absence of unanimity. IMPALA is a large and diverse community and of of its strengths is its ability to encompass a range of varying personal views. At yesterday's meeting 25 board members voted and the result was a rejection of remedies not dealing comprehensively with the problems identified above."

Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA commented: "Our board took a clear decision yesterday to continue its opposition to the Universal/EMI merger, rejecting remedies which do not deal with the specific problems set out in the EC's statement of objections. The issue isn't just digital, it's physical and access to media- exposure for new artists, as well as the foreclosure of independents when it comes to signing artists. We all respect Patrick Zelnik's view, but the FT article is the Naive position, not the Impala position."


Tags: universal, emi, UMG/EMI Merger, impala, zelnik

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