In a sudden move, Virgin Entertainment Group (VEG) CEO Simon Wright has assumed leadership of the company's North American chain, replacing Glen Ward, who has left the company.

In a sudden move, Virgin Entertainment Group (VEG) CEO Simon Wright has assumed leadership of the company's North American chain, replacing Glen Ward, who has left the company.

"We have reviewed our structure here and in the U.K., and as part of that, Glen is leaving," says Wright. "Glen has done a great job for us over the last four years, and he will get every support from us."

Wright, who will continue to oversee international operations, says he will take over as CEO of North America, replacing Ward, who was president in the territory. Wright, who moves between VEG's international offices, says, "I will be basing my international business from [Los Angeles.]"

Meanwhile, the company has named Simon Douglas, formerly with HMV, in the newly created role of executive director of retail for the United Kingdom. The company has also named Dennis Henderson as executive director of strategy for the U.K. chain.

Ward's exit can be seen as a blow to NARM, which just named him as its chairman. Ward was expected to play a role in further re-invigorating the U.S. retail trade organization. He replaced David Schlang, who was an executive at Alliance Entertainment Corp. when he was tapped for the NARM role but soon left the company and spent most of his tenure as chairman of the trade group without holding a job in the industry. Now, NARM is faced once again with a chairman who has lost his power base.

NARM acting president Jim Donio says the latest turn of events is nothing that NARM can't handle. "We are having a conference call tomorrow [Sept. 21] with the NARM board, and [Ward] will communicate his position. We have precedent of this happening before."

When the same situation occurred last year with Schlang, NARM didn't miss a beat, according to Donio. "We moved on, and we planned one of our best conventions, with the highest convention rating in four years. Our membership is up 50%. We are on a more positive trajectory and focus than we have had in the past couple of years," he says.

Ward is said to be willing to stay on as chairman at least for the interim, should the board decide to stick with him. But if it decides to replace him, the obvious choice, Gerry Lopez, vice chairman of the trade association, has just left his post at the Handleman Co. for what is said to be a non-music-industry position at Starbucks. What's more, NARM already has one Starbucks executive, Don MacKinnon, on its board, and it would be unusual to have two from a non-music company.

"This all needs to be sorted through," says Donio. "But we have a 13-person board and have some very strong people on the board. NARM is quite adept at dealing with curve balls and challenges."