Scathing letters from Sex Pistols' manager to Richard Branson revealed

Scathing letters from Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren slamming ‘insidious and idiotic’ Virgin Records boss Richard Branson for ‘pilfering and pirating’ the band’s album are uncovered 40 years on

  • The punk rock band were signed to Branson’s Virgin Records during late 1970s
  • Letters written by McLaren on December 2, 1977, are now set to go up for auction
  • McLaren slammed Branson for releasing a new record in Europe before the UK

Two scathing letters in which the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren described Richard Branson as ‘insidious and idiotic’ have been uncovered more than 40 years later.

The punk rock band were signed to Virgin Records at the time but McLaren accused Branson’s record label of ‘pilfering and pirating’ their famous studio album.

He claimed in the 1977 letter that Branson had supplied unlicensed music shops in Europe with the record before it was released in the UK to ‘make a quick profit’.

The two letters are being sold by a former Virgin employee at auction at a time when Branson has come in for criticism for asking the UK government to bail out Virgin Atlantic despite being worth $4.2billion.

The punk rock band were signed to Virgin Records at the time but McLaren accused Branson’s (pictured in 1979) record label of ‘pilfering and pirating’ their famous studio album

He claimed in the 1977 letter that Branson had supplied unlicensed music shops in Europe with the record before it was released in the UK to ‘make a quick profit’. Pictured: Johnny Rotten

The two letters (one, pictured) are being sold by a former Virgin employee at auction at a time when Branson has come in for criticism for asking the UK government to bail out Virgin Atlantic despite being worth $4.2bn

One of the letters was written by McLaren to Branson while the second, which referenced the Virgin boss, was to Barclay Records which had the rights to sell the album in France

One of the letters was written by McLaren to Branson while the second, which referenced the Virgin boss, was to Barclay Records which had the rights to sell the album in France.

They were written on the same of December 2, 1977.

Barclay Records’ deal meant the French release of the eagerly awaited ‘Never Mind the B***ocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ was to be a week earlier than Virgin’s release.

Branson is said to have been concerned about imports flooding the UK and European market and released it earlier than planned.

A furious McLaren then fired off his letter to Branson.

He wrote: ‘I am very concerned with your insidious methods of laying the blame of a massive export of albums to the U.S on me.

‘In Italy, in Holland, in Scandinavia – we have received reports that the album pressed by Virgin was in their shops before it was even released here.

‘Your attempts to stall delivery to your European licensees in order to, it appears, make a quick profit from pilfering and pirating exports into these countries, has damaged our chances of success here.’

Barclay Records’ deal meant the French release of the eagerly awaited ‘Never Mind the B***ocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ was to be a week earlier than Virgin’s release. Pictured: McLaren 

Branson is said to have been concerned about imports flooding the UK and European market and released it earlier than planned. Pictured: The Sex Pistols in 2000

In his letter to Eddie Barclay, McLaren accused him of hastily producing an ‘ugly’ album cover in order to get the album out early in France.

The music impresario wrote: ‘And don’t for one minute believe that I support that idiotic and insidious Richard Branson.’

Both letters are being sold by Omega Auctions of Newton le Willows, Merseyside. They have given them a guide price of £500.

Paul Fairweather, of Omega, said: ‘The argument between Malcolm McLaren and Richard Branson is a known thing within the music industry.

‘McLaren was a person who didn’t mince his words and fell out with quite a lot of people and Richard Branson was one of those.’

In his letter to Eddie Barclay, McLaren accused him of hastily producing an ‘ugly’ album cover in order to get the album out early in France

Dan Hampson, of Omega, added: ‘This is from the collection of the relatives of a music journalist who worked at Virgin Records and later at the Glitterbest – Malcolm McLaren’s company offices.

‘The family have been sorting through the archive and decided to let the letter go.

‘Anything with links to the Sex Pistols is always popular, and the market is as strong as it ever was for Punk memorabilia.

‘It has never been published before and remains in very good condition.

‘I’d say Richard Branson being in the headlines certainly won’t do any harm as far as the sale is concerned.’

The sale takes place next Tuesday.

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