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WMG announces $100m social justice fund, IPO price

Following Black Out Tuesday yesterday, Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a US$100 million fund to support charitable causes “related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism”.

The fund – jointly financed by WMG and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by WMG vice-chairman Sir Leonard Blavatnik, whose Access Industries is the group’s majority owner – will support individuals and “organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion” in the music industry, according to WMG.

Along with the other two major labels, Universal Music and Sony Music, and all major live music industry companies, Warner Music was supporter of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which saw the music business come to a halt for on 2 June in solidarity with those protesting for racial justice.

Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, says: “This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry.

“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice”

“Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”

Today (3 June) also sees WMG’s return to the stock market after nine years, with a previously announced flotation (IPO) on New York’s Nasdaq set to raise nearly $2 billion from the sale of 77m shares for $25 apiece. Blavatnik purchased WMG for $3.3bn in 2011.

In addition to its labels and publishing arm, WMG has multiple live music interests, including concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with German promoter FKP Scorpio.

 


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Blavatnik, IMG’s Shustorovich drawn into Trump Russia probe

Two prominent entertainment business figures have been drawn into the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election.

Sir Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries holding company owns Warner Music Group, and Alexander Shustorovich, the chief executive of performing arts agency IMG Artists, are reportedly under scrutiny from investigators led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing a probe into the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged links with the Russian government.

According to the Dallas Morning News, political contributions by Sir Len – a Ukrainian-born American/British businessman who had previously donated to both parties – took a “hard right turn” in 2015–16, when he gave more than US$6m to Republican party political action committees (PACs).

Of that $6m, the paper says, the majority, $3.5m went to a PAC associated with Kentucky Republican senator and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, with smaller amounts donated to PACs backing senator Marco Rubio ($1.5m), Wisconsin governor Scott Walker ($1.1m) and Trump’s Inaugural Committee ($1m).

Len Blavatnik and Alexander Shustorovich are reportedly under scrutiny from investigators led by special counsel Robert Mueller

Shustorovich, a Russian-American business magnate with business interests in TV, radio and other media, similarly gave $1m to the Inaugural Committee, which was accepted by the Trump team – despite the rejection of a previous attempt to donate to the Republicans, in 2000, because of concerns over his ties to the Russian government.

Two other men, Andrew Intrater and Kukes – neither of which have any history of political donations – are also reportedly of interest to investigators. Both have been employees of Sir Len: Intrater is chief executive of Columbus Nova, a division of Renova, an investment company co-founded by Blavatnik and his business partner Viktor Vekselberg in 1990, while Kukes worked for Blavatnik and Vekselberg’s TNK from 1998 to 2003.

In addition to owning Warner Music, Access Industries is an investor in Spotify, Deezer and Songkick, the latter of which Warner partially acquired in July. Blavatnik was knighted in 2017 for his philanthropy.

Democratic representative Adam Schiff told ABC News he believes the contributions to be legal, as all donors are US citizens, “unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner”. He added, however, that they “could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

 


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