Len Blavatnik Buys World’s Largest Record Collection: Warner Music Group

The Russian-born industrialist billionaire, who made his fortune in chemical and natural resource companies after the fall of the Soviet Union, just bought Warner Music Group, the record label that manages Cher, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Waka Flocka Flame.

Len Blavatnik and Warner Music


Access Industries will acquire Warner Music Group, for $3.3 billion in cash, it was announced today. Access gets all of WMG’s goodies: all its recorded music and music publishing businesses, according to the announcement. Access Industries, headed by the Russian-born American businessman Len Blavatnik, has long held a minority stake in WMG, and is said to be buddies with Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman, who assured everyone today that the move “serves the best interests of stockholders as well as the best interests of music fans, our recording artists and songwriters, and the wonderful people of this company.”

This doesn’t come totally as a surprise; WMG had been at auction for months–Sean Parker was bidding, among others–and Access’s former investments signaled a real interest. Still, there’s an element of strange bedfellows here. Access has become one of those amorphous mega-companies whose various holdings must make for the strangest office Christmas parties.

At the next holiday gathering, what will be the topic of conversation between Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and the CEO of “Boomerang Tube,” whose 120-acre production facility in Liberty, Texas makes welded tubes and line pipe? Will a Ukrainian TV mini-magnate make small talk with the Goo Goo Dolls? Will a higher-up at O-Zone Networks, India’s “leading public Wi-Fi mobility operator,” get tipsy on the egg nog and make a pass at Cher?

I think I see it now: the products division manager of LyondellBasell thinks he sees a spark in the young, aimless Waka Flocka Flame. He takes the rapper by the shoulder and leads him onto the patio, away from all the noise. “Waka, I have one word for you … plastics!”

Access does, of course, have a number of media holdings; Bronfman cites Access Industries’ “fresh entrepreneurial perspective and expertise in technology and media.” Time will tell what that amounts to, in terms of steering Warner’s future and that of its stable of A-list artists. In the meantime, shareholders will soon be smiling on their way to the bank; Access spent $8.25 per share, a 34.4% premium over the average share price (over the last six monhts) of $6.14.

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David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.