Business

Inside Track: Leadership Shakeup at UMG Latin; KAABOO's Future Up In the Air

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Edited by Dan Rys

Leadership Shakeup at UMG Latin With Departures and New Executive Appointments

Universal Music Latin Entertainment has announced a major leadership shift, namely the appointment of Angel Kaminsky as president of Universal Music Latino. Kaminsky, who's been with the company since 2010, most recently as executive vp for Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, will report directly to Jesús López, Chairman/CEO Universal Music Latin America & Iberian Peninsula.

Universal Music Latino is home to major stars like J Balvin, Karol G and Sebastian Yatra, with Kaminsky, a seasoned and respected executive, having had a hand in the regional and international development of all of them.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of this talented team and looking forward to working together with our amazing roster of artists through the next phase, making Universal Music Latino even more successful," said Kaminsky. "I want to thank UMG for this exciting journey, and for this new opportunity to continue making history for Latin culture."

In addition, Salomón Palacios, who has been at Universal since 2013, most recently as director of live and artist services division GTS, has been appointed senior vp of marketing & artist strategy for Universal Music Latino.

Universal also confirmed that Alejandro Duque, managing director of Universal Music Latino, Machete and Capitol Latin, will be leaving the company. So will Horacio Rodríguez, the longtime SVP of marketing for the label.

Duque's exit has been a persistent rumor for the past couple of months, after Iñigo Zabala announced his departure as president of Warner Music Latin America and Duqué's name was surfaced by sources as a possible candidate to replace him. Neither Warner nor Duque have confirmed he will be going to Warner. Duque did not return calls for comment.

Rodríguez's departure came as a surprise to many the industry, but sources say he is tipped for a high-profile position that will be announced soon.

Although Duque and Rodriguez's exits are no doubt a loss for the company — both were rising stars with a long history at Universal — the label pivoted quickly in announcing strategic and executive appointments.

In addition to Kaminsky and Palacios' appointments, Aldo González was promoted to the position of senior vp of A&R at Universal Music Latino, reporting directly to Kaminsky. González has long been in the company's A&R department and was a key figure in signing Karol G.

Finally, Max Cacciotti was promoted to vp of marketing & artist strategy for Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, reporting directly to López. Cacciotti is the newest member of the Universal team, which he joined in 2019 as director of marketing and artist strategy for Latin America.

"We understand that the rapidly evolving music and entertainment industry demands continuous evolution in our part," said López in a statement. "To keep providing our artists, managers, and consumers with the greatest possible resources, today we are announcing this new structure at Universal Music Latino. The appointment of these talented executives, with their expertise, experience, and energy, will be essential to keep driving our company towards the next chapter, meeting future challenges, and continuing to be the best home for Latin artists."

Palacios, who started in Universal as an analyst seven and a half years ago, said: "This wouldn't have been possible without the strong leadership, vision, and opportunities Universal has offered me through the years. I'm very excited to be working closely with our artists and developing the next generation of stars." —Leila Cobo


C Flanigan/WireImage for KAABOO Del Mar via imageSPACE
Fans watch a band perform onstage during 2015 KAABOO Del Mar at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Sept. 18, 2015 in Del Mar, Calif.

Is KAABOO About to Go Kaboom?

After going M.I.A. for most of 2021, organizers with the KAABOO festival in San Diego have finally responded to fans asking about the future of the event.

"As our world is beginning to return to regular programming, we have been hard at work tuning our strings for the highly anticipated return of KAABOO," a statement from festival organizers Virgin Produced reads on KAABOO San Diego's Facebook page.

Fans are holding about $500,000 worth of tickets from the 2020 festival which they kept instead of requesting a refund, sources tell Billboard, and several spoke to a TV news program in San Diego expressing concern about getting their money back.

Uncertainty about the event's future was not what Virgin Produced had in mind when the company paid more than $10 million for the festival at the end of 2019. Launched in 2014 by Colorado businessman Bryan Gordon, KAABOO, held each fall in Del Mar, Calif., quickly became one of the top festival brands on the West Coast due to its creature comforts, high-end food and beverage opportunities and artist lineups meant to attract a slightly older, more upwardly-mobile audience than most contemporary music festivals.

In 2019, Gordon sold the festival for $10 million to former partner Jason Felts with Virgin Produced, which is affiliated with Richard Branson's Virgin Group, and Virgin Produced investor Marc Hagle of Florida. Shortly after buying KAABOO, Virgin Produced announced it was launching Virgin Fest in downtown Los Angeles.

That's when the lawsuits started. First, Gordon sued Virgin Produced, alleging that the festival buyer hadn't lived up to its end of the deal. That prompted a much more detailed countersuit from Virgin Produced against Gordon, which claimed that the festival would have been canceled hours before opening had the $10 million sale not closed. Lawyers for Virgin Produced also claimed Gordon misrepresented the financial condition of the sale and "allege specifically that Gordon stole" $1.5 million from the 2019 proceeds via wire transfer and instructed staff to remove cash proceeds "out the back door in a book bag," according to Virgin Produced attorney Robert Beste during a May court hearing.

"It doesn't sound, to me, to be completely unreasonable when you're working at a festival," replied Gordon's attorney Theodore Kittila, saying Gordon likely didn't want to "bring up the Brink's armored truck to basically empty out the corn dog stand."

Attorneys for Virgin Fest say Gordon's behavior led to multiple lawsuits from unpaid vendors and investors, including Gordon's ex-wife, that Virgin Produced had to deal with, costing thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Virgin Produced had hoped to contain the fallout from Gordon's actions to the KAABOO festival, but when Virgin Produced began trying to book a new event, the first-ever Virgin Fest in downtown Los Angeles, they discovered that Gordon's relationship with major booking agencies was also going to be a problem.

Angered about late artist payments related to the 2019 KAABOO iteration, WME agents initially did not want to book its artists for Virgin Fest, but eventually agreed after Virgin Fest officials offered to pay Lizzo more than $5 million to headline. WME agreed, on the condition that the full $5 million be paid up front to an artist escrow account. Virgin Fest also agreed to similar arrangements with WME to book artists Ellie Goulding and Kali Uchis.

Six weeks after Virgin Fest signed the booking agreement, the COVID-19 pandemic led its cancellation. The event's promoters said a force majeure clause in the contract required Lizzo and other WME artists to return the money they were advanced for the cancelled show, but lawyers for Lizzo said the superstar kept her end of the agreement and bore no responsibility for returning the money. That case is currently winding its way through L.A. Superior Court.

Virgin Produced's main investor, Marc Hagle, has now spent well over $15 million on the two festivals the company was initially expecting to produce, with little to show for that investment. Hagle is a quiet but highly-regarded real estate developer in Orlando, Fla. and is responsible for nearly $1 billion in development in the state, according to a recent profile in the Orlando Business Journal.

It's unclear if Hagle lost his appetite for the festival business or is just weighing his options, but if he plans to bring either KAABOO back at a future date he better be prepared to cut another big check. One source says the months of uncertainty fans to face earlier this year will not sit well with agents watching on the sidelines.

"I would tell them to be prepared to pay more and to pay all of it up front," our source says. —Dave Brooks