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Jive chief to move to Universal, gossip machine goes into overdrive

By | Published on Wednesday 8 December 2010

One of Sony Music’s most senior US executives, Barry Weiss, has announced he will depart the major next April and join Universal Music instead. The announcement has led to quite a bit of speculation as to what’s going on at both record companies.

Over at Sony, top man Rolf Schmidt-Holtz’s contract runs out next year and he is expected to stand down. There were two obvious contenders to take over the top job. One was Weiss, who has played a key role in the growth of the Jive record company since its very early days, initially as an independent label, then as part of BMG, and since the Sony/BMG merger of 2004, as part of Sony Music. The other is Rob Stringer, the former Sony UK chief who heads up the other big Sony division in North America, and whose brother Howard runs parent company Sony Corp.

So, does Weiss’s move to Universal mean he found out Stringer was a shoo-in for the top job at Sony’s record company? Or was he affected by rumours of a third option for Rolf’s replacement, in the form of Sony/ATV chief Marty Bandier. The New York press recently speculated that Sony might follow the lead of EMI and put its top music publishing man in charge of its record labels. Oh, rumour, rumour.

And what does Weiss’s move to Universal next spring mean? It’s known that former Universal International boss Lucian Grainge, currently taking over from Doug Morris as CEO of the whole Universal label, is planning a radical revamp for next year.

It is thought Weiss will head up Universal Music’s East Coast operations. It’s not clear if that means all the LA-based labels in the Universal empire will be merged. Some also wonder if Weiss’ appointment should be seen as confirmation LA Reid, boss of Universal US’s Island Def Jam division, is facing the chop. It’s known that tensions have been high between the Grainge and Reid teams since the former’s move to the US. Oh rumour, rumour.

And if you like your rumours to come full circle, Digital Music News is speculating that the aforementioned Morris, originally due to stay on as Universal’s Chairman after Grainge becomes sole CEO, is now so pissed off with his replacement he’s considering new opportunities, which might include a move over to Sony to take over from Schmidt-Holtz.

I see plenty of rumour mongering around this story still to come. And hurrah for that.

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