Warner Music Acquires Russia’s Gala Records

Len Blavatnik
BILLY FARRELL/PatrickMcMullan.com/Sipa Press/Newscom

Russian billionaire Blavatnik's Access Industries said May 6 that it will pay about $3.3 billion (or $8.25 a share) for Warner Music.

The music major, controlled by Len Blavatnik, is buying the country's oldest independent label, giving it its first wholly owned local presence.

MOSCOW -- Warner Music Group, controlled by Len Blavatnik, said Monday it had acquired Russia’s oldest independent label, Gala Records Group, marking its first wholly owned local presence in the country.

Blavatnik, whose Access Industries owns WMG through a subsidiary, is one of Russia's richest oligarchs. He lives in London with his wife and family and has interests ranging from oil to industry to media -- with stakes in British companies Top Up TV, filmmaker Icon UK and sports-rights firm Perform. He is known to maintain a keen interest in Russian business and creative affairs.

The deal with Gala, Russia’s first privately owned label founded, in 1988 during the heady days of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s strategy of "perestroika" (rebuilding), gives WMG a strategic presence in Russia’s dynamic music market.

During its 25 years in the business, Gala, led by CEO Alexander Blinov, has worked with some of Russia’s top acts, both for studio and liveperformance work, including stars such as Alla Pugacheva, Irina Allegrova, Nikolai BaskovOleg Gazmanov and groups such as A-Studio, Sektor Gaza, CarMan, Strelki and others that are household names here.

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For the past 20 years the label has represented EMI’s international catalog in Russia and other former Soviet countries, and today its business encompasses recording, distribution, publishing and live production.

Stephen Cooper, CEO of WMG said: “Russia represents a significant opportunity, and with Gala spearheading our operations there, we will be well positioned for growth in this vibrant and dynamic market."

Stu Bergen, president international at Warner Recorded Music, said: "Gala shares our long-held commitment to discovering and developing the very best in local talent, and their success is apparent in their enviable roster and renowned catalog."

Blinov added: “We are joining one of the most experienced and professional teams in the music industry and one that shares our passion and love for music. WMG will make an ideal home for Gala’s artists and writers, and Russia’s abundant creative talent will have a wider access to the world audience."