Sony BMG Music Entertainment COO Michael Smellie is exiting the company at the end of the year, citing personal reasons, Billboard has learned.
Smellie is the highest-ranking former BMG executive involved in the day-to-day operations of Sony BMG. After leaving his current position, he is expected to retain a consultancy role as an adviser to company CEO Andrew Lack.
“I wanted to go back to Sydney in Australia, where my family are, and spend a little bit more time as a father and husband and a little less time as a COO,” Smellie says. “I need a new balance in my life.”
Lack adds: “It’s fair to say we are going to continue to work together pretty closely to the extent that Michael has the time to give me…There isn’t anything on my plate that I wouldn’t want Michael’s input on.”
A successor for Smellie is yet to be named; no timetable has been offered for identifying his replacement.
Smellie is one of the major architects of the Sony-BMG merger, an undertaking that has seen $350 million in cost savings and the elimination of some 2,000 jobs. Smellie and Lack oversaw the integration of the corporate, administrative, sales, distribution and international operations of the two far-flung global music operations.
Smellie in particular played a key role in shaping the personnel structure of the company’s international operations.
He resigns just 11 months after the combination of Sony and BMG, and at a time when the company is still attempting to realize the full benefits of the merger.
As of midyear, Sony BMG Music Entertainment is running second to Universal Music Group in market share. The company has racked up sales of 77.1 million units, for a 27.3% share. During the same period last year, when Sony Music and BMG were separate companies, they had combined scans of 96 million units, which would have represented a 31.4% share, putting them in the top spot, just slightly ahead of UMG.
Lack and Smellie say Sony BMG is just hitting its stride.
“On the performance side, we’re starting to cook,” says Lack, who has been keen to downplay the significance of market-share comparisons. “We’re literally just this summer emerging with the kind of performance we expected for the company.”
Smellie says the company was more preoccupied with integration during the first quarter than it originally hoped, but that project is now essentially complete.
“We haven’t released a record in the last quarter that hasn’t reached our targets,” he says.
Smellie is a 12-year BMG/Sony BMG veteran who rose in the ranks from BMG’s Asia Pacific operation, which he oversaw from 1994 to 2001. In 2001 he was named COO of BMG by then-CEO Rolf Schmidt-Holtz.
Smellie supervised the pre-merger restructuring of BMG—an initiative that saw the consolidation of the company’s creative operations into a single structure under the leadership of Clive Davis and Charles Goldstuck. He also revamped the company’s international operations by dismantling BMG’s regional fiefdoms and creating a single global management and marketing structure.