The reports emerging suggest the entrepreneur and woolly pully wearing balloonist, made an approach to EMI’s chairman, Eric Nicoli, in November and "would still be interested if some opportunity arose", a Virgin source said. This follows news DiS reported not so long ago about EMI losing £180million in 2003 along with trying to buy Warner Music, and all these major mergers, leaving the Indies (which includes Branson's V2 label) in a position where opposition is near impossible, especially when the major record companies are also major media or technology companies.
This story has arisen from a recent Billboard interview where Mr.Branson says "I rang the head of EMI and did say to him, "Look, if you buy Warner Bros., we would like to buy Virgin back off you." And the next day he rang me back and said, "Sorry, it doesn't look like we're going to get Warner Bros." So I think if that had happened, it might have helped them get through their competition issues, and that's something I would have quite liked to have had happen. But we have no plans at present to buy EMI." That is to cleverly say he does not have no plans to buy back the Virgin bit of EMI.
However, a spokesman confirmed that Sir Richard is still hankering to bring the business which launched his empire (with releases from Mike Oldfield and Sex Pistols) back into the Virgin stable, "if the opportunity arose". There are currently no talks taking place with EMI, Virgin said, but the company looks to have other record businesses in its sights (Sanctury? Epitaph?), especially now that analysts are recommending now is the time for people to buy into the music business once again.
According to reports, the plan is/was to merge Virgin Records - which launched his business empire in 1973 but was sold in 1992 for £510 million to fund his airlines and other Virgin activities - with his V2 label, home to the likes of Elbow, The White Stripes (US Only), Stereophonics, Mercury Rev, The Icarus Line, The Datsuns, Grandaddy, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, Moby, Liberty X, Tom Jones, Ron Sexsmith and a whole lot more. Whereas Virgin Records has the likes of The Thrills, Air, Chemical Brothers, Kelis, A Perfect Circle and lots more...
A source for Virgin (the company, not the EMI label) said that Sir Richard wants to expand quickly, and that means via takeovers, the Times believes he has the cash to make acquisitions, with an estimated £387 million from the disposal of stakes in his Virgin Blue airline in Australia. Virgin themselves have already said that they have a £300 million 'war chest' for acquisitions and investments, some of which they hope will be used to launch a budget airline in America this year.
EMI on the other hand, have a source who said: "We treat this with complete incredulity. It is risible, definitely not a runner... Virgin might want to reposition themselves once again as a music business. They may feel there is something there now [in the industry] that they have missed out on. And they were good at it. But it is not something they are going to do with Virgin Records."