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Columbia Records U.K. Names Ferdy Unger-Hamilton as New President

Ferdy Unger-Hamilton has been named president of Columbia Records U.K., replacing Alison Donald and Mark Terry, who had jointly headed the division since 2012 and have both now left the company.

?Unger-Hamilton joins Columbia after nearly eight years as president of Polydor Records, where he helped launch Ellie Goulding, The 1975, Lana Del Rey, Haim, Years & Years and Michael Kiwanuka, and oversaw the campaign for Take That’s 2010 studio album Progress, which remains the third-fastest-selling album in U.K. history behind Adele’s 25 and Oasis’ Be Here Now.

He takes charge of the company in one week’s time (Mon., Nov. 7) and will report directly to Jason Iley, Sony Music UK and Ireland chairman and CEO. In addition to his role as label president, Unger-Hamilton will also run an as-yet-unnamed joint venture in partnership with Sony Music UK. 

“Ferdy is a true artists’ man; someone who has an unparalleled track record for nurturing and breaking artists on a global scale,” said Iley, who had previously worked with Unger-Hamilton at Island Records. Together, they helped launch Keane, whose 2004 debut album, Hopes and Fears went on to sell more than six million copies globally.  

“I am delighted to have such a world-class executive joining Columbia Records and am also particularly looking forward to renewing our working relationship, which has proved so successful in the past,” added Iley.

Unger-Hamilton began his career in the early nineties when he launched Go! Beat Records, scoring critical and commercial success with Portishead and Gabrielle. He also co-wrote “Rise,” the title track of Gabrielle’s third and most successful album, which itself became a U.K. number one single. Prior to joining Universal-owned Polydor in 2008, he also held a number of senior roles at Virgin Records, while his younger brother Gus is a member of the Mercury Prize-winning band Alt-J. 

Commenting on his appointment as Columbia UK present, Unger-Hamilton credited the label with being a formative influence on his life. “I was about 13 years old when I first heard Bob Dylanm after my mum left a cassette of Biograph lying around. Columbia Records changed my life,” he said, calling the historic imprint “the ultimate artist company.”  

“The U.S. team has done such an incredible job — and you can’t imagine how much it means to me to be asked by Jason to lead the U.K. company. I will try to do it justice,” he went on to say. 

The exit of Columbia U.K.’s previous co-presidents Alison Donald and Mark Terry was confirmed by Iley, who said in a statement: “I would like to thank Alison and Mark for all their hard work over the last few years – and wish them well for the future.”

The executive reshuffle at the U.K. arm of Columbia comes just over a week after it was announced that Columbia Records chairman and CEO Rob Stringer was stepping up to the role of Chief Executive Officer of Sony Music Entertainment. Current SME CEO Doug Morris will transition to the role of chairman in April 2017. Iley is among the names rumoured to be in the running for the top job at Columbia Records following Stringer’s promotion. 

The past year has, meanwhile, seen Sony Music U.K. acquire Ministry of Sound, one of Britain’s biggest independent labels with cumulative album sales in excess of 70 million, including 40 U.K. No. 1 albums and over 20 chart-topping singles. That acquisition significantly boosted the label’s already strong domestic market share, which this week sees it claiming the U.K. number 1 album, single, national and regional airplay track, with Elvis’s “The Wonder Of You,” Little Mix’s “Shout Out To My Ex” and James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” respectively.