From spending 20 days on a ventilator with Covid-19 to being in line for a £110million bonus – what a curious pandemic it’s been for Universal boss Lucian Grainge…

I wrote earlier this week about Lucian Grainge, the boss in charge at Universal Music Group. He’s pictured on the far right of the above image.  But it’s not just me who’s been scribbling about him over the past few days – and when I take a closer look at what’s going on, my oh my has he a pandemic to write home about!

Last year, Grainge was one of the first people in the UK music industry to catch Covid-19 – and he had an incredibly rough time at the hands of the virus. It was strongly suspected at the time that Vivendi, Universal’s parent company, were not being entirely upfront about just how sick he really was – reminiscent of how Downing Street repeatedly played down how ill Prime Minister Boris Johnson was when he caught it.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Grainge reveals the truth. He was one of the first people in Los Angeles to contract the coronavirus – infact, he was the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s first ever patient with the virus. He ended up on a ventilator for nearly three weeks. After 20 days, the tube was removed – doctors describe the fact he survived at all an absolute miracle.

Whilst at the hospital, a friend left in an iPod for him to listen to. It had five songs on it, playing in a loop. Grainge wasn’t best pleased after discovering some of the songs on the iPod were signed to rival Sony Music in the 1990s. He said “someone is torturing me by intentionally playing non-Universal music” – and no one quite knows if he was joking…

His recovery from his time on a ventilator took around five months and somehow left no permanent damage to his lungs. But during this time, Universal Music Group remained buoyant. Exactly how much work Grainge was doing in this period isn’t known – although one of my sources who has worked with all the majors simply said “Lucian wouldn’t stay off work any longer than he had to, it’s just not his style”.

Streaming continued to grow during lockdown and so did Universal’s coffers. And this week, the share price of Universal rose by over one third, all thanks to owners Viveni deciding to spin them off. This leaves Lucian Grainge likely to receive a potential bonus. No one can work out exactly what he’s owed, but to state £100million would most likely be conservative.

And it’s a revelation which leaves me torn. On the one hand, I’m glad to see Grainge has recovered from Covid and I don’t typically have a problem with people being given huge rewards for huge success. On the other hand, I just wish those artists who are signed to Universal would see a big boost to their bank balances too…

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