In a surprise announcement, Universal Music International chairman/CEO Jorgen Larsen confirmed today (May 13) that he will be handing his responsibilities to current Universal Music U.K. and Ireland c

In a surprise announcement, Universal Music International chairman/CEO Jorgen Larsen confirmed today (May 13) that he will be handing his responsibilities to current Universal Music U.K. and Ireland chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, with effect from July 1, 2005.

Larsen said he planned to retire June 30, 2006 when his current contract expires. In the meantime, Larsen will remain UMI chairman emeritus to ensure a smooth transition at the company's helm until his retirement.

Grainge will report to Doug Morris, chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group. He will inherit overall responsibilities for the biggest record company's operations in the world outside the United States.

Grainge has turned the British affiliate of UMI into the undisputed market leader. According to figures published by the IFPI, the U.K. company held a 27.8% share of the albums market and 29.6% for singles in 2004.

As one of the most senior executives in the music industry, Larsen has been the prime architect of Universal Music's dominance in the international music market in recent years.

UMI's European chart share in albums reached 35.1% during the first quarter of 2005, a dramatic improvement over the same period of 2004, when it scored a 16.9% share. In singles, UMI posted a 39.2% share (34.3% in 2004).

When he exits next year, Larsen, who also sits on the main board of the IFPI, will have chalked up about 35 years' service in the music business.

"Jorgen has done a tremendous job over the last decade in guiding our international operations into a leadership position in the music business," commented Morris.

Grainge will continue to assume responsibility for the London-based U.K. company, which he has helmed as chairman/CEO since July 2001. He entered the music business 27 years ago, first as an A&R scout for April Music/CBS in 1978.

In 1986, he joined PolyGram as managing director of its U.K. music publishing company. He rose through the ranks taking roles as head of A&R, managing director of Polydor Records and deputy chairman of Universal Music U.K.