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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Robbie signs '80m' deal
Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams celebrates the deal
Robbie Williams has signed what is believed to be an 80m contract with EMI Records in what could be the UK's biggest record deal.

The deal for four albums, second only to Michael Jackson's in music history, was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

I am rich beyond my wildest dreams

Robbie Williams

The singer, 28, said: "I am back with EMI - well I never left. I am glad.

"I want to continue to break records and make records with EMI."

WIlliams, who was speaking at a press conference at his management's west London offices, is expected to be given more control over his work.

It is believed the deal includes a commitment to try to make him a star in the United States, where he has only had limited success so far.

Bright future

The singer told reporters who asked how much the deal was worth that his mother had told him it was "uncouth" to discuss money.

But he joked: "I am rich beyond my wildest dreams."

It is understood the deal includes 10m up front, 15m on completion of the first record and 55m for the remaining three records.

The head of the EMI label in the UK, Tony Wadsworth, said he was excited by the long-term deal.

"We have sold 22 million albums and had a fantastic time and the future is looking bright," he said.

Michael Jackson
Only Michael Jackson has won a bigger record deal
The deal means EMI will take an unusually high share of profit from touring, publishing profits and merchandise - areas where the artists themselves usually make more money.

His representatives called the new deal a "multi-platform" approach to the "respective elements of recording, live work, film and television".

In a statement his management company and EMI said: "There are only a handful of artists in the world that could achieve this level of ownership and control of their own careers and record companies that could make it work."

Williams' manager David Enthoven added: "This watershed deal will undoubtedly make a positive change to the workings of the music industry."

Shares down

EMI's shares rose in early trading on Wednesday as the London stock exchange reacted to early reports of the deal, but by the end of trading the share price was down 1.75p at 167.75p.

Williams had flown in to Heathrow on Tuesday night from Canada, where he has been shooting the video for his new single Feel, with actress Daryl Hannah.

The previous biggest UK record deal was the 42m paid to Sir Elton John in 1996.

The battle had been on to sign the former Take That singer after his EMI contract expired earlier this year.

Sony, BMG and Richard Branson's V2 Records were among those believed to have joined in the race.

Bankable star

But EMI has been keen to retain Williams, who has been one of the label's most successful acts of recent years with a string of hits.

He is due to release his new album Escapology next month after his fourth solo album - the big band tribute album Swing When You're Winning - sold more than 5.5m copies.

On Wednesday the singer said: "This is the best album I have made. I'm really proud of it."

In marked contrast to the singer's success, EMI has had a rocky 12 months, cutting 1,800 jobs and suffering a string of chart flops.

It is the only one of the world's big five record companies to be based in the UK.

But earlier this year it paid Mariah Carey 38m to sever her contract after the failure of the Glitter album, the soundtrack to the film of the same name in which she starred.

The BBC's Russel Hayes
"He's transformed himself into a crooner who's Britain's most bankable recording star"
The BBC's David Sillito
"That 80m figure should be taken with a pinch of salt"
Can Robbie Williams make it in the US?



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