Robert Plant has signed a multi-album pact with U.K.-based Fontana Records, ending the international portion of his 24-year association with Atlantic Records.

The former Led Zeppelin lead singer’s future product will still be distributed by Atlantic in North America, and recently reached a new domestic deal with that label, an Atlantic spokesperson confirmed yesterday.

His next album is expected in late spring or early summer.

Plant’s signing to the Fontana label, a Polygram affiliate, was championed by A&R VP David Bates, who was instrumental in reactivating the label in 1987. Bates is credited with bringing Def Leppard and Tears for Fears to the Phonogram label in the late ’70s, and for signing soul diva Oleta Adams and alternative rockers the Catherine Wheel and James to Fontana.

As a solo artist, Plant has been a consistent seller in both the U.S. and abroad. His resume includes the platinum “The Principle of Moments” and “Now and Zen.” Plant’s stint with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Nile Rogers under the nom-de-band the Honeydrippers also resulted in a platinum album for Atlantic.

While some sources say Plant hasn’t been happy with Atlantic’s marketing of his albums, others suggest that his track record and career-long relationship with Atlantic co-CEO/co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun may have prompted Atlantic to outbid other suitors for his U.S. rights.

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