'I was completely at my death': Sir Lucian Grainge on surviving Covid and the future of UMG

'I was completely at my death': Sir Lucian Grainge on surviving Covid and the future of UMG

UMG CEO & chairman Sir Lucian Grainge has given a rare interview, in which he reveals the life-threatening bout of Covid he endured last year.

Speaking to the Financial Times ahead of UMG’s IPO next week, Sir Lucian described the moment, almost 18 months ago, when doctors removed the ventilator on his 20th day at UCLA’s intensive care unit. 

“It’s like a plane landing,” said Grainge of the sensation of breathing again without assistance. “Seats back, tables up, drinks come away, and you’re coming in to land.” 

According to the FT, doctors told him that his recovery was a miracle. During his lengthy spell in hospital, Sir Lucian listened to an iPod delivered to the hospital, including songs by The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

“It was life-giving and it was a joy,” he said. 

But then he realised something that was amiss.

“There were some Sony records from the early ’90s,” he told the FT. “And I just thought, someone is torturing me by intentionally playing non-Universal music.”

In the interview, the paper describes 61-year-old Sir Lucian as “the last man standing from a bygone era in music”, and notes his acquisition of EMI to boost market share and leverage deals with DSPs.

I was completely at my death

Sir Lucian Grainge

Grainge was infected in the early wave of Covid in March 2020, but parent company Vivendi never disclosed how ill he was.

“I was completely at my death,” he said.

The wide-ranging interview covers his career, family and love of Arsenal. 

Sir Lucian stressed that the brush with death had not changed him.

“I’ve been through quite a lot,” he said. “You don’t get from nowhere, to where I am, without always trying to prove yourself. What happened yesterday, happened yesterday. I love the next move and I love winning. I don’t romanticise the past.”

Amid the huge growth in the music industry, there is some speculation that the market could peak.

But Sir Lucian is bullish about the future. 

“Look, I know what can go wrong,” he said. “Believe me, I’ve been around for so long, I’ve been knocked down so many times and been told either personally or professionally, it’s over. I’ve nearly died 10 times. What’s there to be nervous about?”


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