Sony Music is expected to announce today that 550 Records prexy Polly Anthony will add the title of president of Epic Records to her already impressive resume. Anthony had inked a new multi-year contract extension earlier this week.

The shift, which makes her one of the music industry’s highest-ranking — and best paid — female execs, also sets in motion a series of changes in the conglom, including the departure of Epic Records prexy Richard Griffiths, according to sources.

Ron Sweeney, exec veep of black music for Epic, has been upped to president of black music for the Epic Records Group and, like Anthony, will report directly to Group chairman David Glew.

The ascension, which had been expected (Daily Variety, Sept. 16), also gives Anthony, who is credited with shepherding Celine Dion to the album-sales stratosphere, a larger role within the group. She continues to hold the title of senior veep of Epic Records Group.

“Polly is a highly skilled motivator and she exudes confidence and inspires that in everyone she works with,” producer David Foster told Daily Variety. “When I was starting my company I thought I’d like to have her on my team. She always has the right answers and knows what needs to be done and when.”

Superstar handling

Foster noted that although Anthony came aboard after Dion had become well known, it was Anthony who was instrumental in taking the songstress “to the superstar level.”

Ironically, the Anthony nod is also the beginning of a wave of unrelated musical chairs in the industry’s exec suites, which will affect the staffs at the Virgin, Warner Bros./Reprise and Maverick labels, as well as EMI.

Griffiths, who has expressed to Sony brass an interest in returning to London, is said to be in discussions to assume a new post with the company.

Though the rumor mill has the exec segueing to Virgin, dealmakers note that Sony is one of the few companies that still has a “no mitigation clause” in their exec pacts.

They note it would be in Sony’s best financial interest to find a lateral post for Griffiths, otherwise he must be paid for the remaining 3-1/2 years left on his contract. Insiders floated that a U.K. post may be offered to Griffiths, and sources said Sony Music Entertainment prexy/COO Thomas Mottola has been working to keep the exec.

Sources said Griffiths has also been given the OK to test-drive offers from competitors.

In the restructuring, David Massey, who is credited with developing Oasis and Des’ree, among others, will be upped to exec veep/G.M. of Epic, from his current title of senior veep. He will assist Anthony with the day-to-day operation of the label, which boasts Babyface, Indigo Girls and Michael Jackson, among others.

Craig Lambert, Epic senior veep, ankled his post Thursday, though his exit is said to be unrelated to the changes.

Former Virgin Records A&R whiz Kaz Utsunomiya, who closed his deal to join Epic at the beginning of September — and was selected by Griffiths — has been named senior veep of A&R at the label.

Insiders said a deal with Anthony, who bowed 550 in 1993, has been in the works for several weeks.Anthony has seen her stock rise considerably in the wake of the success of Dion. She also has very close ties to Mottola and is well-liked throughout the industry. She was formerly a promotion exec and has been in the Sony and CBS Records (the precursor to Sony) families since 1978.

Dion’s “Falling Into You” is the bestselling album released in 1996 and has topped 23 million copies worldwide. Anthony is also behind the platinum-selling Ginuwine, whose 550 bow has logged more than 1.2 million copies since its release late last year.

Anthony was presented earlier this year with the prestigious CEO Special Recognition Award by the top Sony Japanese brass — she becomes only the second Sony Music Entertainment exec to be honored with the award.

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