EMI buyer: Nicoli not fired

Terra Firma flatly denies rumor

LONDON -- European equity house Terra Firma is playing down speculation that EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli is on the verge of being jettisoned.

Sources close to the music major claim that Terra Firma, which is preparing to buy EMI Group, has appointed a headhunter to find a replacement for Nicoli; Terra Firma flatly denies that.

"No one has been brought in to replace Nicoli," a company spokesman said. "We will sit down with him when we actually own the company, but that won't be until the start of September. Until then, no decisions will be taken."

An EMI spokesman declined comment.

Terra Firma recently won backing to buy EMI Group in a deal valued at about £2.4 billion ($4.9 billion), having staved off advances from Warner Music Group and a consortium led by former EMI chief Jim Fifield.

Controlled by financier Guy Hands, Terra Firma declared its intentions to own EMI with a May 21 announcement of a £2.65 ($5.21) per share offer for the London-based firm.

Following completion of the transaction, industry observers expect Terra Firma to inject new blood into EMI's existing board and shake up the company's recorded music arm.

One confirmed incoming EMI executive is Terra Firma partner Stephen Alexander, who has served at the highest executive ranks for cinemas chain Odeon, beverages chain Thresher Group and spirits firm Allied Domecq.

"Alexander is the chap at Terra Firma who is responsible for the EMI deal," explains a Terra Firma spokesman. He is certain to join EMI, the spokesman said, "but in what way is yet to be worked out."

Lars Brandle is global news editor at Billboard.