Island Def Jam Music Group, Republic Records
Power Move: Returning IDJ to profitability, and making UMG East Coast label operations one of Universal’s key revenue components.
Rundown: When Doug Morris (No. 5) jumped ship to head Sony Music, his successor, Lucian Grainge (No. 1), retaliated by setting off a tit-for-tat executive tug-of-war between the two majors that continues to this day. Grainge enticed RCA/Jive head Barry Weiss to join Universal Music Group as chairman/CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group and Republic Records, and in doing so won a decisive battle in the war.
With the help of longtime business collaborator Ivan Gavin and Island Def Jam president Steve Bartels (No. 47), Weiss has turned around the money-losing IDJ operation, and made the overall UMG East Coast label operations one of the more profitable Universal components, according to company insiders.
IDJ needed lots of work, sources say, due to the departure of talent visionary Antonio “L.A.” Reid (No. 40) along with some of his lieutenants, which created a gaping A&R void. So Weiss set about expanding on what IDJ has been doing for years by boosting four repertoire centers — Island, Def Jam, Mercury and Motown — so the label group would have an array of A&R streams pouring into its marketing and promotion teams. Company insiders consider Weiss a workaholic, a leader who knows when to get involved and when to be hands off. He’s overhauled several areas of the business, and hardly touched others, such as Republic, which he describes as a finely tuned machine. He’s also one of the rare label execs who knows when to exercise restraint when chasing records.
Looking forward, Weiss is straight-ahead: “The challenge always is breaking new artists and making sure current artists on the roster remain vibrant and solid.”