In a surprise move, John O’Donnell has returned to EMI Music Australia, where he takes the vacant post of managing director.
With effect from March 4, O’Donnell will take duties for the EMI, Capitol and Virgin labels, and will oversee the creative direction for the music company’s roster of Australian artists.
It’s a case of executive musical chairs at EMI Australia. O’Donnell had helmed the music company as CEO from 2002 until 2008, when he was succeeded by Mark Poston. Poston went on to become chairman of EMI Australasia, but recently exited whilst Universal Music was at the business-end of its integration with EMI.
O’Donnell, who started his career as a music journalist, joined Sony Music Australia in 1994 as label manager of the newly-formed Murmur imprint. In his first week in the gig, he co-signed the teenage grunge trio Silverchair.
O’Donnell tells Billboard.biz that he’s “super excited” about his homecoming at EMI.
Among his biggest achievements during his first stint at EMI were the breaking of Missy Higgins, Jet, Empire of the Sun, and Angus & Julia Stone, all of whom won “best album” at the ARIA Awards.
O’Donnell also served as a member of the ARIA Board and as Chairman of the record companies’ performing rights body PPCA from 2005 – 2008.
In 2010, he co-authored the popular Hardie Grant book “The 100 Best Australian Albums” and its accompanying compilation album, which shipped gold (35,000 units). O’Donnell and industry vet John Watson co-manage the legendary Australian band Cold Chisel, whose 2011 tour of Australia and New Zealand played to some 350,000 fans and is considered one of the highest grossing tours by an Australian-based band.
“Everyone who has ever worked with John knows that he is synonymous with great artists and great music,” comments Max Hole, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International, in a statement. “Developing and investing further in our Australian artists is a key international goal for us. I’m thrilled that John has agreed to return to EMI to play such a crucial role.”
In his new role, O’Donnell will report to George Ash, president of Universal Music Australasia. “Our aim is to broaden and refresh the entrepreneurial edge that has been such a part of EMI’s proud heritage,” says Ash in a statement,” and with John at the helm we know that the company will be in the best possible hands.”