Disney ends its two-year search for top exec

Music industry vet Bob Cavallo has been tapped as chairman of the Walt Disney Music Group. The newly created post puts the conglom’s music operations under one exec team and signals a major reorganization of the Mouse House’s music businesses.

Cavallo will be charged with revitalizing the conglom’s music holdings while overseeing the operation of the records group, which includes Hollywood Records, Lyrics Street Records, Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Music Publishing and the recently acquired Mammoth Records.

“Bob is one of the music industry’s most talented, experienced and creative executives,” said Joe Roth, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. “During the past few months, I have seen first-hand his deep understanding of the business and his ability to identify and work with talent. He is the right man at the right time to lead our efforts in the highly important field of music.”

Two-year search

The Cavallo nod ends a nearly two-year search by Disney execs during which many of the industry’s chief execs, such as Capitol’s Gary Gersh and ex-Virgin topper Phil Quartararo, were eyeballed for the potent gig.

Industry observers suggest Cavallo has a rough road ahead in luring talent and execs to help build the group, as the conglom is presently not known in the industry as an artist-friendly operation and it does not have any marquee value artists or big-name execs to act as magnets. Disney’s jettisoning Insane Clown Posse last year from its Hollywood label further sullied its reputation.

But Cavallo’s decades of industry experience and strong ties to the creative community could be the ticket to turn the conglom’s lackluster music operation around.

Previous Disney experience

Cavallo already has the lay of the Disney land. He has been working closely with Disney under an agreement inked with Third Rail Records, a label owned by Cavallo and film producers Charles Roven and the late Dawn Steel.

Under the terms of that pact, Third Rail developed new artists and Cavallo acted as a consultant to Disney’s music divisions with an eye on segueing into a top-level post (Daily Variety, Oct. 28).

“After years in the music business, this is an opportunity to create a dynamic new force in the industry while also building on the established strengths of one of the greatest companies in all of entertainment,” Cavallo said. “The potential is enormous and I can’t wait to get started.”

Music strategy shift

The music strategy at Disney has shifted under Roth. The conglom, which was previously only represented by its flagship labels Hollywood and Disney, has since unveiled or acquired several smaller niche labels.

The $25 million acquisition of Mammoth Records was the first of what is expected to be several deals designed to add specialized genre labels to the group.

Roth also moved the Disney label, which releases soundtracks from its animated pics and sing-along sets, and the music publishing outfit out from the consumer products arm into the records group.

‘Major reorganization’

“This appointment is part of a major reorganization of Disney’s music business,” said Michael Eisner, chairman/CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “For the first time, all of our recorded music efforts will be coordinated under a single management team, to be headed by Bob. I am certain that this will open up major new opportunities for our entire company.”

Though Cavallo is perhaps best known as a partner with Joe Ruffalo and Steve Fargnoli in Cavallo, Ruffalo & Fargnoli, a potent management firm that boasted a red-hot Prince and produced the 1984 pic “Purple Rain,” he has spent the last seven years teamed with Roven and repping some of the industry’s vital talents.

Roven-Cavallo Entertainment reps Alanis Morissette, Seal, Green Day and Savage Garden, among others, and has Third Rail Records set up as its music label. The firm changed its name to Atlas Third Rail with the addition of Steel to the ranks in 1994.

Cavallo will continue as a consultant for the Atlas Third Rail Management team of Roven, Scott Welch, Pat Magnarella and Rebecca Mostow, who will continue to manage the careers of its artists. Disney will also maintain its relationship with Third Rail Records.

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