Universal Music Group shares surge in £110m bonus for Lucian Grainge

The Guardian
The Guardian
Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group, with singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.

Universal Music Group’s shares surged by more than a third in its stock market debut on Tuesday, putting its chairman and chief executive, Sir Lucian Grainge, in line for a potential bonus of almost $150m (£110m).

Shares in the world’s largest music company, the label behind artists including Taylor Swift and Bob Dylan, rose more than 35% to €25 a share in early trading, giving the business a market value of more than €45bn (£38bn).

Universal’s parent company, Vivendi, had set a reference price of €18.5 a share, a market capitalisation of €33.5bn, before the launch of its crown jewel asset on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam.

However, investors eager to cash in on the streaming boom – analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove have described Universal Music as an “extraordinary, must-own asset” – have made it the biggest European listing of the year.

British-born Grainge is in line for one of the largest corporate payouts in history. Under the terms of the flotation Grainge will receive a “transaction bonus” of a share of $150m and 1% of Universal Music’s equity value above $30bn, relating to the 60% of the music company that Vivendi is releasing in the flotation.

This means that the 61-year-old is in line for a bonus of potentially more than $140m, according to Vivendi’s prospectus on the flotation published last week.

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Grainge, who was paid a total package of €50m last year, will also receive as much as $40m relating to the sale of 10% stakes in Universal Music to the Chinese technology group Tencent and Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund.

Grainge, who was knighted in 2016 and received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame last year, came close to dying after contracting coronavirus weeks after a lavish party celebrating his 60th birthday in February last year.

Vivendi’s move to spin off its crown jewel music business, Universal, which accounts for about three-quarters of the French conglomerate’s profits, saw its own share price fall by as much as 15% in early trading. Vincent Bolloré, Vivendi’s controlling shareholder, has received a stake worth almost €6bn in Universal following the flotation.

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