Alain Levy earned more than £3.5m (€5.3m) in pay and bonuses last year as chairman and chief executive of EMI Music – a job held since October 2001.
The veteran industry figure was brought in to replace EMI’s highest paid executive Ken Berry, who was credited with signing the Spice Girls. The 2001 move came a month after EMI reported sales of recorded music had been weaker than expected and that full-year profits would drop 20%.
Mr Levy said that the company had suffered because of the economic downturn, outdated music industry practices, and the impact of piracy. He set about overhauling recorded music and, under his leadership, the company slashed its number of artists – including Mariah Carey – and made its manufacturing operations more efficient.
However, in 2005 EMI dealt a blow to music fans and investors after it admitted albums by two of its major bands, Coldplay and Gorillaz, would not be released until April at the earliest – pushing the releases into the next financial year.
Today EMI said annual sales in its recorded music division – home to Lily Allen, Norah Jones and Robbie Williams – were likely to be up to 10% lower after the “strong” release schedule envisaged for Christmas disappointed.
Mr Levy, bearing the brunt of the news, will leave the business with immediate effect. According to one report today, his exit could cost EMI £7m (€10.6m) as he stands to get one year’s salary worth £1m (€1.5m), plus the three-year average of his bonus entitlement and the payment of share options.
French-born Mr Levy, 60, has spent his career working for some of the biggest names in the recording industry. He graduated from the prestigious Ecole des Mines and studied for his MBA at the Wharton Business School, part of the University of Pennsylvania.
His ascent in the music business began in 1972 when he joined CBS International, now Sony BMG, as assistant to the president in New York. He soon moved to the company’s Paris office, where he climbed to the post of vice president of marketing in Europe by 1976. Three years later he became managing director of CBS France.
In 1984 Mr Levy joined PolyGram as chief executive of its French business, which he shaped into France’s largest record company with a market share of more than 30%. His next big move was to London to become PolyGram’s executive vice president, taking part in the acquisition of Island Records, which brought U2 and Sting to the label’s roster.
Mr Levy went to New York in 1990 to oversee PolyGram’s US operations, and in the next year became worldwide president and chief executive of the company. He led its expansion into films with the setting up of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, which scored hits such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Trainspotting, Bean and Fargo.
He also saw PolyGram acquire the Motown and Def Jam labels, aiding the company’s increasing domination of the music industry. Having seen the business go from number three to number one in the market, Mr Levy left PolyGram in 1998 following its sale to Seagram.
After a period consulting and investing in media companies, he moved to EMI.