Universal Music Belgium is eyeing-up leading Belgian independent ARS Entertainment, Billboard.biz has learned.

And unconfirmed rumors circulate that ARS founder and managing director Patrick Busschots is to be tapped as the new Universal Belgium MD.

An official statement is expected in the coming days. A Universal Music Group International spokesman declined to comment.

The Universal Belgium MD position has been vacant since Tuesday, when incumbent Dirk De Clippeleir was laid-off, ending 10 years' service with the company.

De Clippeleir's contributions "are reflected in the company's consistent strength and market leadership, and its success with both international repertoire and domestic artists," commented Vico Antippas, UMGI president of Nordic, Central and Eastern Europe, in a statement. "He also played an important role as director of technology implementation for UMGI from 2001-2005."

ARS Entertainment was launched in 1976 as a specialized import and oldies retail store. Soon after, it developed into a record label with early successes from Pet Shop Boys. But it was Technotronic's 1989 hit "Pump up the Jam" that opened the international doors for the Antwerp-based independent.

The company is present on the Benelux and French market, with a focus on the development of long-term artist deals. The label recently signed Laura Lynn, who helped relaunch "schlager" music in the Benelux region. ARS Entertainment is also a key player in the market in kids-repertoire.

In Belgium, ARS Entertainment repertoire is distributed through EMI Music, in France through Warner Music.

Universal Music Belgium currently employs 54 people, while ARS Entertainment has 15 staffers on its payroll.