Sir Richard Branson offered to buy back Virgin Records, the label which set him on the road to a fortune, from its owners EMI, it emerged yesterday.
A spokesman confirmed that Sir Richard was still hankering to bring the business which launched his career back into the Virgin stable, “if the opportunity arose”.
Set up in 1973, when Branson was prescient enough to guess that Mike Oldfield’s quirky Tubular Bells album would sell like hotcakes, Virgin Records went on to sign the Sex Pistols in 1977. It was sold to EMI for £650m in 1992, and the proceeds used to help bankroll the then Mr Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic.
The entrepreneur approached EMI chairman Eric Nicoli last year, when a merger between EMI and Time Warner was on the cards, and offered to snap up Virgin Records if it had to be sold off in the event of the two firms merging.
Despite having broadened the Virgin brand to cover goods and services from bridal wear to cross-country trains, Sir Richard would like to increase its presence in the music industry. He believes Virgin Records – with big-name performers from Robbie Williams to the Rolling Stones – would combine well with his existing music label, V2, which has artists including the Stereophonics and the White Stripes.
EMI’s merger plans were scuppered in November last year, when former Hollywood mogul Edgar Bronfman Jr stepped in to buy Time Warner’s recorded music division. But the spokesman signalled that Sir Richard would be willing to make another offer for Virgin Records if the opportunity arose.
“He’s sitting on quite a cash pile at the moment, so he would have the resources to make a purchase like that,” he said.