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Virgin: Branson Mulls Overhaul Of Record Firm

(c) Sky News 2012

Sir Richard Branson is to develop a new '21st century business plan' for the music industry, Sky News has learned - if he can buy-back Virgin Records.

The billionaire confirmed on Tuesday in a tweet that he was considering the possibility, saying it would be "a wonderful opportunity to recreate a dynamic independent label".

His spokesman, Nick Fox, told Sky News: "The main reason to do it would be to create a record company that is specifically designed to operate in the 21st century."

Sir Richard founded the record label in in 1972, when he was 22, before selling it to Thorn EMI in 1992 for £510m - or £860m in 2012 prices.

The young Branson defied record industry orthodoxy at the time, and now recognises that in the digital world of 2012 only a new strategy would prove commercially viable.

Mr Fox said: "Although we haven't run the music business for many, many years, people still strongly associate Virgin with the music business and to build on that would be logical.

"When Richard sold Virgin Records it went with the names and one of the attractions is to buy it back and license it out if partners want to."

The name is now owned by Universal Music Group , which was reportedly mulling the sale of Virgin Records to ease regulatory concerns over its proposed £1bn-plus takeover of EMI.

EMI - home to a galaxy of stars including The Beatles, Coldplay and US pop starlet Katy Perry - was seized by its main creditor Citigroup (NYSE: C - news) in February 2011 from private equity owner Terra Firma.

Terra Firma had sought but failed to successfully move the iconic EMI from one "primarily focused on 'music hits' to a business more broadly focused on rights management services".

When Sir Richard sold Virgin Records it included both the label and music publishing business, however any buy-back would not include publishing.

Although the record company made the entrepreneur's name - and helped fund his expansion into airlines and space - Sir Richard maintains a corporate imperative in any possible deal.

"The business carries the Virgin name and Richard is keen to have a say in how businesses with the Virgin name are run," Mr Fox said.

Sir Richard is expected to team up with former Virgin Records France executive Patrick Zelnick, who now runs Naïve Records, on the bid.

However, industry experts have expressed doubts about the viability of a deal, according to industry strategist and former Music Week editor Steve Redmond.

"The consensus from the people I have spoken to, and it is a huge talking point, is that it is highly unlikely to happen," Mr Redmond told Sky News.

"There may have been conversations between Zelnick and Branson, but that doesn't sound like a done deal."