As Vivendi shareholders back UMG spin-out, Sir Lucian Grainge says: ‘We’ve only just begun.’

Sir Lucian Grainge, CEO & Chairman, Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group (UMG) parent company Vivendi has secured overwhelming support from its shareholders for its proposed public listing of UMG later this year.

Yesterday (June 22), at Vivendi’s Annual General Shareholders’ Meeting, the Paris-based company’s shareholders voted 99.9% in favor of the plan, which will see 60% of UMG shares floated on the Euronext Amsterdam in September .

Vivendi said yesterday that the  listing of the company on stock exchange “could take place on September 21”, but has previously announced that it will be completed by September 27 “at the latest”.

The news of Vivendi’s shareholder backing for the proposed IPO comes just three days after Pershing Square Tontine Holdings (PSTH), a US-based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), confirmed that it is officially buying 10% of UMG.

PSTH confirmed on Sunday (June 20) that it had entered into a definitive agreement with UMG’s majority owner, Vivendi, to acquire 10% of outstanding ordinary shares in UMG for approximately $4 billion.

Following the Amsterdam listing and PSTH share distribution, UMG will be owned 10% by Vivendi, 10% by PSTH, 60% as traded on the Amsterdam Euronext, and 20% by a consortium led by Tencent Holdings.

In a UMG presentation video played to PSTH investors today (June 23), Sir Lucian Grainge was on bullish yet philosophical form.

Grainge told PSTH’s investors that, in terms of Universal’s growth story: “We’ve only just begun.” He further explained that “the ultimate key” to UMG’s success is its “unique culture”, which he says is a “mix of ‘independent entrepreneurialism’ and ‘strength through unity'”.

Added Grainge: “We are simultaneously ‘many’ and at the same time ‘one.’ Our process is an inventive one. Most companies try to standardize the way they do things. But UMG isn’t ‘most companies’.”

“The best way to prevent your business from being disrupted is to create a culture that thrives on disruption.”

Sir Lucian Grainge

Grainge also told PSTH’s investors: “It’s become quite fashionable to invest in music today. But it wasn’t so long ago that there were doomsayers proclaiming, ‘This is the beginning of the end… The music industry is done for.’

“I never believed it,” he continued. “The best way to prevent your business from being disrupted is to create a culture that thrives on disruption. This was not the time to withdraw and bury your head in the sand. We doubled down and invested for the future. We increased our A&R spending and made a deal to purchase EMI [in 2012].”

Grainge wasn’t the only person from UMG’s executive leadership team to present the company’s vision to to Pershing Square.

Other appearances came from the likes of Jeffrey Harleston General Counsel & EVP, Business & Legal Affairs, UMG, Jody Gerson Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group, John Janick Chairman & CEO, Interscope Geffen A&M and Ethiopia Habtemariam Chair & CEO, Motown Records.

“The EMI acquisition provided us with once-in-a-lifetime recordings, which included the Beatles. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?”

Jeffrey Harleston, UMG

Picking up where Grainge to discuss the EMI acquisition, Harleston said: “Everyone thought we were way off-base – and that Lucian was perhaps the most off-base. But it paid off.

“The EMI acquisition provided us with once-in-a-lifetime recordings, which included the Beatles. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

“So against that backdrop, we believed that if we continue to invest in artists, build the greatest content, structure and management team in the industry, we could focus on actively creating new opportunities in the digital world and open previously untapped new markets.”

Jody Gerson

“Universal Music Publishing Group is the publisher of choice for the world’s greatest songwriters and artists.”

Jody Gerson, Universal Music Publishing 

Jody Gerson, meanwhile, echoed Grainge’s comments on UMG’s company culture.

“We succeeded because of our culture, which places songwriters first and promotes a winning mentality, with each of our employees working aggressively, pursuing the best writers and iconic catalogs, and providing them with services that are simply unmatched,” she told investors.

She added: “Universal Music Publishing Group is the publisher of choice for the world’s greatest songwriters and artists.

“It is no surprise that we have signed and resigned some of the most successful songwriters in the world, from every imaginable genre and from every recording label.

“We knew [Billie Eilish] was an incredibly special artist and that it would be important to lay out a 3-year strategy to support her development.”

John Janick

Interscope Geffen A&M chief John Janick cited the label’s work with Billie Eilish as “a shining example of our commitment to artist development”.

Said Janick, “We knew [Eilish] was an incredibly special artist and that it would be important to lay out a 3-year strategy to support her development.”

He added: “We gave her the time to write, to record and to find her voice. We partnered with Bravado on her merchandise and UMPG on her publishing. While we built her here in the US, abroad we tapped into UMG’s global reach, local expertise and network of relationships, while forming brand partnerships around the world.

“When the 2020 Grammys came along, she won five awards, becoming the youngest solo artist in history to sweep the top honors including her Album of the Year win.

“Billie is now a true global star, with her most recent album selling nearly 18 million album equivalents around the world.”

Ethiopia Habtemariam

“Motown is a beacon of transformative, inter-generational success.”

Ethiopia Habtemariam,  Motown Records

Elsewhere, Motown Records’ Ethiopia Habtemariam said that “Motown is a beacon of transformative, inter-generational success”.

She added: “We have introduced some of history’s most iconic artists and music. And still, Motown Records continues to define, lead and drive global culture every day.

“What defines us… what joins us together… is what’s woven into the fabric of Motown. Cultivating the sound of youth culture; supporting the dreams of black artists; and inspiring, empowering and uplifting entrepreneurs.”Music Business Worldwide

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