Executive in-fighting has led to a senior management shakeup at Avex Inc., Japan's leading independent record label. Tom Yoda has stepped down as the company's chairman/CEO and taken the post of non-v

Executive in-fighting has led to a senior management shakeup at Avex Inc., Japan's leading independent record label.

Tom Yoda has stepped down as the company's chairman/CEO and taken the post of non-voting honorary chairman. Instead, managing director Toshio Kobayashi has been named as president. Additionally, Yoda has resigned as chairman/CEO of the Recording Industry Assn. Of Japan; his replacement has yet to be named.

Meanwhile, Masato Matsuura, the company's co-founder and senior MD, and Ryuhei Chiba, president of Avex's talent agency AXEV, quit the company on Aug. 1. But facing pressure from Avex employees and artists, the company announced two days later that both men had withdrawn their resignations. Avex staff were told of the resignations Aug. 2.

The shake-up was apparently sparked by an acrimonious board meeting July 30. Sources say board members demanded that Chiba -- a close ally of Matsuura -- resign over an alleged conflict of interest regarding an artist he had signed. Matsuura countered by calling for Yoda's resignation.

A number of Avex artists came out in support of Matsuura, who discovered Ayumi Hamasaki and many of the label's other top acts. Hamasaki alone is responsible for roughly 10% of the company's total revenues.

"I'll decide on my future course depending on [Matsuura's] fate," Hamasaki said in a statement; the singer has since indicated she would stay with the label. Various Avex artists have posted messages on their Web sites in support of Matsuura.

Avex, which launched in 1988, signed several major stars and quickly grew into one of Japan's biggest music-business success stories. It has been listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange since 1999.