Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman is quitting New York to base his work and family in London, raising a few quizzical eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic. Bronfman plans to run the world’s third largest record label from the big smoke as well as the Big Apple, apparently undeterred by the UK’s newly-punitive tax regime. The music mogul says he wants to raise his children outside the US for a year or two, which is seemingly a good enough reason to pay 50% income tax and swap holidays in the Hamptons for bank holidays in Bognor...
Some cynics suspect an ulterior motive – presumably on the grounds that nobody in their right mind would swap Manhattan for Mayfair. For instance, Warner has immediately been forced to deny suggestions that Bronfman’s arrival signals yet another merger attempt with EMI (the two have been flirting shamelessly for years but have never quite managed to hook up) - although Warner presumably is hoping that his presence will benefit its lagging British arm. Bronfrom actually spent two years in London in the 1980s running drinks business Seagram Europe, which was then sold to media conglomerate Vivendi in a deal that nearly destroyed the company (and hammered his personal fortune). Let’s hope this hop across the pond proves rather more productive.
Of course, leaving New York, as Warner-signed REM once sang, is never easy. From a fatal steam explosion on Lexington Avenue during rush hour, a plane landing on the Hudson or an obese woman screaming expletives while trapped by her bottom in a subway turnstile, something unpredictable is always happening. Every day brings endless drama, music and steam. And there aren’t many places where you can get a spray tan at 3am, have your iPod fixed by an ‘Apple Genius’ on Christmas day, or eat $2 bagels that would drive a grown man to weep with joy.
Nonetheless, we’re sure all right-minded UK business publications will join us in saluting his decision, which to us seems eminently sensible. Perhaps he wants to avoid the notoriously vile New York summers, when the endless humidity renders the city streets airless, and it feels like you’ve accidentally walked into a giant sauna with skyscrapers. Or perhaps he just fancies taking a bit more holiday - in New York, the average is 12 days per year, and (in our experience) you can feel guilty about taking that long. Either way, presumably Alistair Darling – or possibly Ed Balls? – won’t be complaining about the extra tax receipts...
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