Edgar Bronfman Jr. marked his last day as Warner Music Group chairman on Tuesday by vowing to fight Universal's proposed $1.9-billion bid to acquire the recorded music division of EMI "tooth and nail."
Bronfman, who sold the Warner Music Group to Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik in 2011, told AllThingsD's Peter Kafka at the Dive Into Media Conference that the merger would create a market-killing “super major.”
“It's dangerous, problematic and has to be stopped,” Bronfman said. "Warner will fight it tooth and nail."
Universal, wielding close to 40 percent market share, would “determine the future of not only the recorded music industry but any kind of digital music industry as well,” said Bronfman. Not only that, he added, but the artists and cultural diversity would suffer.
Others have echoed his point of view. Impala, a powerful consortium of independent European music labels, immediately voiced its objection to the deal when it was reached in November, saying that it expected it to be blocked by the European Commission for anti-trust reasons.
However, many industry experts and insiders view traditional market share as less important in the age of iTunes, Spotify and other digital music platforms. Further fueling that argument is that EMI's strength is in not in its roster of active artists but its catalog of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
“What are you buying here?" Bob Lefsetz, a former lawyer in the industry and now a widely read blogger, told TheWrap in November. "You're not buying an active company. They have a couple of hit acts -- Katy Perry and Coldplay -- and at some point Coldplay's deal will run out.”
Bronfman, the billionaire heir to the Seagram fortune, has a particular interest in the deal. Bronfman pursued EMI for some time, and his decision to leave WMG has been widely interpreted as a direct result of its failure to acquire it.
Still, Bronfman insisted that he was going to leave regardless of whether or not the EMI deal went through. Moreover, he said, his greatest regret at the company was not the failure to acquire EMI, but a miscalculation in the mobile space.
“It was a financially successful investment,” Bronfman said of his initial WMG acquisition. “What was wrong with my calculation -- and I said this even before I bought Warner -- is I thought mobile would be the most powerful platform for the distribution of content.
“Mobile took longer to mature than I thought at the time.”
Mobile still looks like the future, but is also still taking time to mature. While Apple has found success with its content strategy for the iPhone, it stands out as compared to its competitors.
But what about Android? What of Google Music?
For now, Bronfman had one word: Oxymoron.