EMI Ups Faxon to Group Chief Executive

Goal is to “enable the company to reposition itself as a comprehensive rights management company”

Will the Force be strong with this one?

In putting Roger Faxon into the newly created position of group chief executive on Friday, EMI certainly hopes the former Lucasfilm COO will help defeat the Death Star of the declining music biz.

Faxon’s role will be to “enable the company to reposition itself as a comprehensive rights management company that can take full advantage of all global opportunities in all markets for music,” the company said in a statement.

With a new job and a new title, Faxon, who has been with EMI for 16 years and running the company’s highly profitable music publishing arm for the past three years, will “maximize the experience and skills which exist within both EMI Recorded Music and EMI Music Publishing under one global head.”  

Despite recent chart successes — "The Beatles Remasters," which has sold more than 13 million units; Gorillaz; a solo album from former Guns’n’Roses guitarist Slash; and country trio Lady Antebellum, whose “Need You Now" album has proven the bestselling record of 2010 – it’s been a rocky last few years for EMI.

The purchase of the venerable music company in 2007 by private equity firm Terra Firma, in a highly contentious and litigious deal, seemed to signal the end of an era for many. The general decline of the music biz, plus shifts in EMI’s corporate culture under Terra Firma and an uncertainty about the company’s books and direction led some big-name acts such as Radiohead, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones to leave the label.

Speculation swept the industry that, despite actually starting to turn a profit, Terra Firma didn’t know what it was doing, that Citigroup could call in its loans and take over the company or that parts of EMI, like the lucrative publishing division, could be sold off.

Terra Firma, as TheWrap reported earlier this year, successfully sought to raise more than $250 million from investors to stabilize the company’s potentially fatal debt load and retain control from Citigroup.

Worries that EMI will become less a label and more a recycler of old tunes under Faxon’s reign are unfounded, says one individual intimate with the company. "It’s not like the publishing company is going to consume the recorded music. The intent is to continue to sign new talent, because new talent is the catalogue of the future."

Faxon isn’t the only EMI exec stepping into new offices. Longtime corporate director Stephen Alexander has been named chairman of EMI holding company Maltby Capital, replacing Lord John Birt who will shift his focus to acquisitions and strategy for the equity firm as well as represents Terra Firma on the board of other companies..

Terra Firma manages over $20 billion in assets worldwide.