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Universal Music Group Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge has continued to keep his company at the top of the market share heap since replacing Doug Morris in March, 2011. On Jan. 25, Grainge will be presented with the Salute to Industry Icons honor at the annual Clive Davis-Recording Academy pre-Grammy gala at the Beverly Hilton.
The British executive, who’s been in the music industry for 35 years, counts Eminem, Lady Gaga, Madonna, No Doubt, Kendrick Lamar and Lana Del Rey on his current roster. He also orchestrated the acquisition of EMI’s recorded music in 2012, bringing The Beatles, Katy Perry and now Neil Diamond, all signed to Capitol, under the UMG fold.
It’s safe to say, Grainge is having a very good year. Here are six facts about how the 53-year-old got to become a major music industry power broker.
1. His first job was at a London talent scout company, where he was put in charge of “getting the secretaries sandwiches.”
2. In the early 1970s, after a cold call to CBS Records senior exec Maurice Oberstein, Grainge was hired for the A&R department at music publisher April Music, where his first signing was the Psychedelic Furs and initial U.S. hit single was Olivia Newton-John’s “Heart Attack,” written by his U.K. client Paul Bliss.
3. His first wife, attorney Samantha Berg, slipped into a coma while giving birth to their son Elliot in 1993, and passed away 14 years later. Grainge enlisted U.K. pop groups Take That and Sugababes to perform at his son’s bar mitzvah at London’s exclusive Nobu Berkeley restaurant.
4. Time magazine once alluded to his competitive nature, recounting his tale of turning the lights off during a meeting of his executive team, leaving them literally in the dark, then warning: “That’s what it looks like when you don’t have any hit records.”
5. A staunch fanatic for Arsenal football, he often invites fellow Brits, including Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller, to his house on weekends to watch soccer and eat bagels and lox. He once spent 19,000 pounds to spend an hour with Cowell at a charity auction.
6. His good friend, U2’s Bono once described him as “a ruthless fucker…but he’s got good ears.”
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