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Anyone who wants to sign him look like they'll have to pay around £40 million...

ROBBIE WILLIAMS is at the centre of a bidding war being battled out by the world’s largest music labels, with RICHARD BRANSON’s V2 entering the war as surprise contenders.

EMI’s deal with Robbie Williams ended in February, reports The Independent, and the company is very keen to hold on to one of its greatest assets after giving Mariah Carey a £38 million pay off this year and having to axe 1,800 jobs. A deal with V2 would see Robbie Williams sharing a label with Moby, Stereophonics and Liberty X.

A Robbie Williams insider has said: “Sir Richard understands exactly what we are trying to do.” Robbie Williams is thought to want increased control over media outlets such as video recordings and digital downloads. His new contract, with whomever he signs, is likely to be worth around £40 million.