BMG COO Michael Smellie will oversee Arista Records' executive management team in the wake of Antonio "L.A." Reid's exit as president/CEO.

BMG COO Michael Smellie will oversee Arista Records' executive management team in the wake of Antonio "L.A." Reid's exit today (Jan. 13) as president/CEO. The changing of the guard presages anticipated approval of the merger of BMG with Sony Music.

Smellie's supervision of Arista will continue "until further notice," according to a BMG statement. Executive VP/GM Larry Mestel will continue to oversee the label's day-to-day operations.

Senior VP of marketing and artist relations Mark Shimmel has also exited Arista.

Following Clive Davis' ouster from Arista, Reid formally took over as president/CEO in July 2000. Prior to that, Reid was co-president of Atlanta-based LaFace Records with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. LaFace subsequently became a wholly owned BMG label that was incorporated into Arista.

Reid encountered his share of criticism at Arista. During his tenure, industry watchers questioned his five-album, $100 million deal with Whitney Houston and his signing of Boyz II Men. Yet he was able to quell naysayers with such success stories as Pink and Avril Lavigne. His sudden departure comes amid the ongoing sales success of OutKast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" (3.3 million units to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan), plus that of Sarah McLachlan, Dido and Kelis.

Meanwhile, BMG says it is too early to comment on speculation that Arista may be merged with RCA/J or Jive after the Sony deal closes. "Any discussion of the post-merger management structure of Sony BMG is premature. No integration plans or discussions have taken place as yet," BMG says in a statement.

In related news, Brussels-based independent labels group Impala has submitted formal objections to the planned merger. Members of Impala met with European Commission officials on Monday to reinforce the group's objections.

Impala claims that a combined Sony BMG would have a devastating effect on the music market, stifling competition and emerging talent. "[The merger] will create a second Universal, and make the music market even harder to access," Impala general secretary Philippe Kern tells Bulletin.

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