Bright future beckons at the helm of the world’s biggest music company

Old Elizabethan Lucian Grainge is consolidating Universal Music’s position as the world’s biggest recording company amid signs that, after years of decline, the music industry is starting to grow again.

In a major interview with the Sunday Times, Los Angeles-based Lucian (OE 1971-78) was bullish about the prospects for EMI – owner of famous labels such as Capitol Records and Virgin – which has been the subject of a controversial £1.2bn takeover by Universal. Concerned about a threat to competition, the European Commission forced Universal to sell a third of EMI.

Speaking of his plans to revive EMI now that the takeover has been secured, he said: “I tried to get my first records recorded at EMI and I really want to make a difference to it. For me, this is a duty and a responsibility.”

Lucian was an early starter in business terms: he walked out of a history A-level examination at QE to cut his first record deal, although he still passed his A-levels. His interest in the business is said to have been sparked in childhood, when he would study which records customers selected in his father’s TV, radio and record shop.

He is due to bring together many of his British labels into a new company called Virgin EMI, while also launching a Capitol Records UK label. In addition, he plans to invest millions of pounds into signing unknown acts.

Figures released recently showed that the recorded music industry’s global revenue grew 0.3% to $16.5bn last year – the first increase for more than a decade, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Revenue was boosted by growing sales from legal downloading and streaming of music.

He is sanguine about Universal’s prospects: “We were the first to be disrupted by the internet and we will show that we are the first to power out. When you lift the carpet there is an extraordinary transformative explosion of new rights, new distribution, new content and new ways of acquiring and finding it.”

Lucian was awarded the CBE for services to the creative industries in the 2010 New Year’s Honours. Married with two children and a stepdaughter, he is known both for his formidable business ability and his disarming style. He remains a keen Arsenal supporter.

His brother, Justin (OE 1978-81), is understood still be to living in Finchley and is a photographer.