The long-expected reconfiguration of the Universal Music Group's East Coast labels began unfolding today, leaving two separate major labels -- the Island Def Jam Music Group and Universal Motown Republic Group -- with shared services in select back-office functions including legal, finance, international and digital.
"While this will unfortunately result in some redundancy, it will allow for increased expenditures on the creative front across our labels, with particular plans to double our A&R investment at Universal Motown, Barry Weiss, the companies' chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
"Moreover, by centralizing these select functions, our artists and business partners will also benefit from a more concentrated and streamlined approach in the areas of legal, finance, international and digital. This will allow us to operate with much more flexibility and speed; two qualities necessary for our continued growth in this challenging marketplace."
As a result, approximately 20 staffers had been let go at press time, including Margeaux Rawson, senior VP of media relations for Universal Motown, and, as first reported by All Access and confirmed by a source to Billboard.biz, several national and regional promotion execs, including vice presidents Tommy Nappi, Sujit Kundu, Frank Palombi, Mitch Mills and Stephanie Harty.
But the company is making moves beyond the stated A&R investment for Universal Motown. Longtime producer and Warner Music executive David Foster announced last month at a BMI event that he has joined Universal, but he didn't say in what capacity. A source familiar with the situation said that Foster is in discussions with senior UMG management about overseeing the Verve label, which is currently a part of Universal Music Enterprises.
In another A&R move, sources tell Billboard.biz that Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine is talking with Gee Roberson of Hip-Hop Since 1978, the management firm that handles Kanye West, Drake, Lil Wayne and others, about heading up a revitalized and restaffed Geffen Records, which would be located on the East Coast.
And UMG insiders say discussions continue with Sylvia Rhone, who recently left Universal Motown, about starting a multi-rights company based in New York. Also, the company continues to search for a creative head to lead Motown, which, when all is said and done, will still be a functioning label, but with a smaller staff presence.
Relatedly, news broke earlier this week that former Island Def Jam head LA Reid will be joining his former boss Doug Morris at Sony and will head up Epic Records.
In terms of shared services between the two labels, sources said that Pat Monaco, formerly GM of Motown, will head up a department that will include sales and possibly some other label functions, with the details still being worked out, according to sources. That department will include Jim Roppo, formerly head of sales for IDJ, and Wayne Chernin, formerly head of sales for Universal Motown Republic.
The company announced promotions in a press release earlier today. Steve Gawley has been named executive VP of business and legal affairs; George Marolda has been named CFO; and both are reporting to Barry Weiss, chairman and CEO of UMRG and IDJMG.
In other moves, Matt Voss has been promoted to senior VP of international; and Jon Vanhala has been named senior VP of digital, brand integration and new business. Voss and Vanhala report to both Universal Republic president and CEO Monte Lipman; and Island Def Jam president and COO Steve Bartels. In yet another move, Meredeth Oliver has been named VP of A&R administration, reporting to Gawley.
Previously, Gawley and Marolda held the same positions, respectively for the Island Def Jam Music Group and for Universal Motown Republic Group, while Vanhala had been senior VP of digital and new business development and Voss had been senior VP of international marketing, both with IDJ, while Oliver had served senior director of A&R administration for UMRG.