V2 Records, the second shot at the record industry brass ring by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has made its first major appointment by tapping industry vet Dan Beck as prexy of its North American operation.

The label is also expected to soon tap Arista Records artist development exec Richard Sanders as its g.m.

Beck, who was previously a senior veep of marketing for Epic Records Group, will be charged with shaping the in-dependent label into a major industry player.

V2, which has a mandate to sign artists directly, in addition to entering into partnerships with other labels, is cur-rently in search of a distributor.

Sources said BMG and Polygram are the leading contenders for the business of the group, which would be a major feather in either distrib’s cap.

The nod to the well-respected Beck, who oversaw strategic campaigns for such Epic artists as Pearl Jam, Gloria Estefan and Michael Jackson, among others, had been expected (Variety, Jan. 13-19).

“Obviously we’re thrilled that V2 in its infancy has managed to attract someone of Dan’s caliber to take the helm in America,” said Jeremy Pearce, chief operating officer of V2 Group, the label’s parent. Beck will report to Pearce. “In addition to his tremendous marketing experience, Dan has exactly the personal qualities to lead what we be-lieve will be a very special company.”

Beck is also credited with being instrumental in the careers of such successful artists as Boston, Meat Loaf, Charlie Daniels and others.

Branson bowed V2 in late November and has since struck a number of key deals, including pacts with Gee Street Records, Big Cat and Flydaddy. It has signed Kings of Infinite Space, Addict and Stereophonics.

“(Dan) was our No. 1 choice, and it’s always good to be No. 1,” said Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group.

Branson announced his return to the music business in April 1996, after a four-year absence spent focusing pri-marily on his airline, Virgin Airways.

He sold his first label, Virgin Records, to EMI in 1993 for $935 million, and recently said he “regretted the sale almost from the word go.” He was contractually precluded from launching another label until 1996.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more