Long-time Spain- and France-based music publisher Fabrice Benoit has joined Universal Music Spain as managing director.

His appointment comes eight months after the dismissal of Marcelo Castello Branco as president of Universal Music Spain and Portugal. Since then, the Spain operation has been managed by Miami-based Jesús López, chairman of Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula. Benoit reports to López.

Although this is Benoit's first posting at a record label, he tells Billboard.biz that his 2001-2007 stint as managing director of Universal Music Publishing France gave him a close insight into how labels function. Before then, Benoit, a Frenchman, was MD from 1997-2001 at EMI Music Publishing Spain and head of A&R at Universal Music Publishing France between 1986-1997.

"I'm still landing back in Spain and finding out how much the industry has changed since my last spell here," Benoit says. "I'm traveling between Miami, Madrid and Paris, and making new contacts in Spain before taking any major decisions."

Madrid-based Benoit has also produced a few albums in France, the most successful being the debut album of then Paris-based Cuban rap act Orishas' "A Lo Cubano", which was released on EMI in Europe and Universal in the United States and Latin America, says Benoit.

While at EMI Publishing Spain, he also signed leading Spanish artists Estopa, Ojos de Brujo, Orishas, and international singing star Alejandro Sanz for his 1997 album "Más" (Warner), which was the first album to sell 1 million units in Spain in a week.

"It's great to be back and I'm looking forward to tackling this challenging new label task at Universal," says Benoit.

Shortly after Castello Branco left last June, Universal bought Spain's biggest independent label Vale Music. The Universal-Vale link meant that Universal Spain's market share in retail shot up from 16.94% in 2005 to 25.87% last year, just behind market leader Sony BMG with 27.53%.

Benoit is MD and not president, and his post does not cover Portugal. Spain now has two divisions in practice - parent company Universal in Madrid and Barcelona-based Vale Music, whose president Ricard Campoy reports directly to López, and not to Benoit. Universal Music Portugal is run by MD Toze Brito.