Major Czech record label Supraphon changes hands

The oldest Czech record label Supraphon has a new owner. The music publishing company, part of the Bonton entertainment group, was sold last week to Czech industry tycoon Miloš Petana. The new owner also acquired the publisher’s extensive archives containing more than 100,000 recordings made throughout the 20th century.

Supraphon Music, the oldest running record label in the Czech Republic, changed hands last week after up-and-coming entertainment tycoon Miloš Petana offered the highest bid for one of the most valuable firms in the Bonton media group. Financial details were not disclosed but the estimated price ranged between 100 and 250 million crowns, or 5.5 and 14 million US dollars. I asked Supraphon’s managing director Jana Gondová if there were going to be any changes to the company under the new owner.

“I hope so, but not that there need to be any. I think that just like every new owner he will want to put his own stamp on the company. But I’d like to say that it’s a change in ownership, not a change in management. So if somebody bought it and the management is staying, that means that they have confidence in the management to continue to do the job the way they will want it to be done.”

The company, with the Czech lion holding a lyre on the label, first appeared in 1946 following the nationalization of the Czech recording industry. Originally created as an export label for Czech music, it soon became the major music recording company in the country. After the fall of communism, it was acquired by the newly established Bonton entertainment group where it remained until October 1, when it changed hands once again.

“Supraphon owns upwards of 90 percent of music that was created in this country. It goes back to the 1920s and the companies Esta and Ultraphon. They were merged into a state enterprise following the advent of communism. So obviously, the wealth of recording is unimaginable. It ranges from classical to jazz, pop, everything. It’s incredible richness that we represent here.”

Supraphon practically stopped recording and releasing new music in the early 1990s, and focused on converting their excellent archives for new media. The company’s archives contain around 100,000 recordings, out of which 33,000 are recordings of classical music. Music critic Vladimír Vlasák says Suprahon enjoyed a monopoly during much of the communist era.

“Especially classical music by some great line-ups of the Czech Philharmonic, all these great orchestras recorded with Supraphon and created some unique records. On the other hand, it’s true that the label could finance such big orchestras. Such recordings are very expensive, and it was then possible to record some complicated symphony works.”

As the new owner of Supraphon is not planning any major changes, the company will probably keep re-releasing music, classical and pop, that they recorded in the past. So what is the biggest hit on the Supraphone label?

“I think that as far as classical music is concerned, the composition ‘My Country’ will remain the most popular composition of all times. It doesn’t really matter how many versions were released, it always sells well, and the best-selling version of that is with Rafael Kubelík, recorded in 1990, the first year after the fall of the wall.”