The hair-metal whisperer turned pop-star finder on discovering Katy Perry, Lorde's genius and his label's sale.
In an industry, teeming with tenacious characters, Jason Flom's track record speaks for itself. During the past three decades, he has signed Katy Perry, Tori Amos and Lorde, and held top posts at Atlantic, Virgin, Capitol and Lava, the label he founded in 1995 as a joint venture through Atlantic. Lava currently operates via Republic, although its term expires in April and a bidding war is underway. Flom, 53, declined to discuss numbers due to an ongoing divorce from his wife of 20 years, Wendy Berry. But imprints with buzzy artists tend to be hot commodities: Big Machine Records is also on the block, at a valuation insiders have placed between $200 million-$250 million.
It's a long way from the lifelong New Yorker's early career ambitions, which were "to smoke pot and play guitar all day," Flom laughs. In 1979, his father, Joseph -- a top-flight corporate lawyer who was the subject of a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers -- got him a job at Atlantic hanging concert posters in record stores. He soon joined the A&R department and signed such hair bands as Twisted Sister and White Lion in the 1980s. After being crowned head of A&R in 1990, he scored hits with Stone Temple Pilots, Jewel and, after Lava launched, Matchbox Twenty, Sugar Ray and arguably his biggest discovery to date: Kid Rock, whose 1998 breakthrough album, Devil Without a Cause, has sold 9.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Flom, who posts Instagram photos from concerts with his kids, Allison, 20, and Michael, 15, disputes reports that his net worth is $100 million ("I wish"). However, the view is great from his penthouse apartment 67 stories above Central Park (Diddy is a neighbor), which is located across the street from the three-person Lava office -- for now, at least. "It'll be interesting," he says of the coming sale of his company, whose roster includes Jessie J, as well as forthcoming projects from singer Noyse and Andy Black, vocalist of metal band Black Veil Brides. "The heat is on."