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A high-stakes competition could be shaping up between the ex-king and his newly crowned successor and soon-to-be rival, with L.A. Reid as the possible man in the middle.

I.B. BAD WATCHES ATTENTIVELY AS THE PLOT THICKENS

Shakespeare Himself Would Be Hard-Pressed to Come Up With a More Dramatic Plotline Than the One We’re Watching Take Shape Right Now
People were talking nonstop during Grammy week, with the same handful of names invariably coming up. Countless conversations were triggered by the unfolding drama starring Doug Morris and Lucian Grainge, with a supporting cast led by Barry Weiss, whom Grainge has anointed to run UMG’s East Coast operations after luring him from Sony Music, and current IDJ chief L.A. Reid. A high-stakes competition could be shaping up between the ex-king and his newly crowned successor and soon-to-be rival, with Reid as the possible man in the middle. Industry observers are asking what happened to the deal Reid was believed to be so close to making with UMG back in December, and whether it’s still on the table. Reid’s leverage would seem to be increasing by the day, with the Justin Bieber franchise, which has now spun off a hit movie and a chart-topping companion album, and the upcoming Kanye West/Jay-Z superstar collaboration further fueling Reid’s momentum following a strong Q4. Where will he wind up if both Grainge and Morris want this proven rainmaker, as most believe they will? Reid can’t possibly have a formal offer yet from Morris, who’s still at UMG, presumably until July 1, and he probably won’t make a decision until both offers are on the table. If Reid then decides to stay at Universal, what would the company’s East Coast structure look like? Would both Weiss and Reid report directly to Grainge?… Alternatively, should Reid choose to return to his old stomping grounds, he would seem to be the ideal executive to fill the Weiss vacancy, which would mean he would once again oversee Arista/LaFace while adding RCA/Jive to his portfolio. Such a scenario would reunite him with Usher and Pink and enable him to put OutKast back together, while bringing his legendary A&R skills into play with the likes of soon-to-be-orphaned Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and R. Kelly. Further ramping up the speculation were sightings of Reid’s attorney, Atlanta-based Joel Katz, whose sphere of influence continues to expand, huddling with his client and Grainge during Grammy week… In a related topic, how will Clive Davis fit into the new hierarchy under Morris, with some insiders saying the legendary record man is taking advantage of the approaching transition to lobby for expanded responsibilities... Weiss is leaving on a high note after 28 years at Jive, with Spears, Chris Brown, The Strokes and Foo Fighters expected to extend his hot streak well beyond his departure. Additionally, some expect Weiss to bring his right-hand man, RCA/Jive COO Ivan Gavin, with him to UMG… In stark contrast to all this East Coast-rooted uncertainty, IGA ruler Jimmy Iovine appears to be more untouchable than ever, thanks to the combined wallop of Eminem, Lady Gaga and Dr. Dre (the latter two with upcoming releases), the revitalized American Idol and his wildly successful Beats audio venture with Dre, which some now value in the hundreds of millions (UMG is said to have a small stake in the business)… Many expect an imminent comeback from former RCA and Sony Music Nashville topper Joe Galante and his onetime lieutenant Randy Goodman, the latter most recently at now-defunct Disney sub-label Lyric Street. Insiders believe Butch Waugh, the third member of this extremely successful team, may well be part of this rumored new venture… Meanwhile, lots of raised eyebrows over the timing of the news of Nick Gatfield being named President of Sony Music U.K., which happened to break on Grammy night. What had so many heads doing 360s at the Sony Music party was the side note in the Gatfield news reports wherein Sony U.K. and Ireland Chairman Ged Doherty appeared to take credit for making the Simon Cowell Syco deal… The most pressing unknowns two months into 2011 have to do with the disposition of the assets of Warner Music and EMI, along with the endgames of their present owners, Edgar Bronfman and his private equity investors and Citigroup, respectively. How big a vote does Bronfman get regarding the selling off of WMG, considering he’s shown no previous inclination to remove himself from the music business?… Among the potential bidders on the publishing side are Netherlands-based Imagem, which snapped up disposed assets from UMG during its 2009 acquisition of BMG Songs, and financier Len Blavatnik, a Bronfman confidant and former WMG board member, who’s reportedly poised to make a bid for Warner/Chappell… Names in the rumor mill: Lyor Cohen, Irving Azoff, Roger Faxon, Hartwig Masuch, Zach Horowitz, Ron Werre and Jay Brown.
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