Fifield exits EMI with $21 mil

Berry, Bandier take seats on board

The long-expected departure of Jim Fifield, the No. 2 exec at EMI, came to pass Friday with the U.K.-based conglom announcing the resignation of the 10-year company vet.

As a result of Fifield’s exit, Ken Berry and Martin Bandier, EMI Recorded Music CEO and EMI Music Publishing chairman/CEO, respectively, have been appointed to EMI’s board of directors.

The pair’s ascension signals that Fifield will not be replaced, since they had previously reported to Fifield, who in turn reported to EMI Group chairman Sir Colin Southgate.

The upping of the two division chiefs is also widely viewed as another precursor to the eventual sale of the company (related story, page 1), because Berry and Bandier’s successful track record boosts the credibility of the conglom’s music operation. The pair will also now consult with the EMI board on corporate strategy.

Fifield, who was prexy and CEO of EMI Music, will get an exit package worth $21 million: a $10.5 million payment for the early termination of his employment pact and an $10.5 million payment into his pension, which had been due upon his exit. He also has millions of dollars in stock and future options.

“Jim has made a tremendous contribution to EMI Music,” said Southgate, who also credited Fifield with helping to build EMI to the industry’s third largest music company.

The resignation comes three months after Fifield was on the verge of a new five-year contract and a promotion to the conglom’s top slot, replacing Southgate (Daily Variety Jan. 16). Southgate had been expected to assume a non-exec role.

But the ascension was nixed by EMI’s board when the 59-year old Southgate changed his mind, publicly embarrassing Fifield by the pact’s withdrawal. That set the stage for Fifield’s departure before his existing contract expired (Daily Variety, Feb. 23).

Southgate has since said he’s mulling retiring in July, but Friday’s move does not make it clear who will become the conglom’s top exec if and when that happens.

Fifield, who came to EMI as prexy of CBS-Fox Video, is also credited with bringing Virgin Records into the EMI fold and orchestrating a number of key alliances for the conglom since joining in 1988.

The nod to Berry, who oversees the conglom’s record label operation, marks the latest vote of confidence given the exec by EMI brass and continues his rapid career ascension, which began last May when Fifield orchestrated a company-wide restructuring which led to the shuttering of its North American management layer (Daily Variety, May 27).

Fifield and Berry, the latter ascending from Virgin Music Group chairman to head of EMI Recorded Music, have spent the past 11 months aggressively cutting costs by jettisoning underperforming units and management layers.

“Ken’s international music experience as well as his ability to create an environment and culture that nurtures artistic and management talent has strengthened the quality and performance of our roster,” said Southgate.

Fifield’s putative pact would have called for him to report directly to the EMI board and assume Southgate’s duties of oversight for the conglom’s worldwide operation.

Ironically, when word of Fifield’s new employment pact for leaked out in January, it surprised industry and EMI insiders, as the vet was widely thought to be riding out the remaining months of his contract.

Had Fifield’s new deal been inked, his employment at EMI would have been extended through 2002. His present pact was slated to expire in April 1999.

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