Parsons looks like music man

Azzoli leads pack behind TM prexy

Just as Time Warner prexy Richard Parsons appears to be getting an expanded film role at the company — with new chairman/CEO Barry Meyer reporting to him — insiders expect Parsons will also inherit Warner Music Group, with Atlantic Records co-CEO/co-chairman Val Azzoli, widely considered the front-runner for the top spot under Parsons.

Putting the beleaguered music arm under Parsons, insiders say, would send a positive message to Wall Street, as the exec would instantly give the once-mighty music group a chief with worldwide experience running an entertainment company, not just a music outpost.

And, just as Meyer and new president-COO Alan Horn are sharing duties, it is expected that structure will be mirrored on the music side with Azzoli and perhaps new-media chief Paul Vidich. Azzoli is expected to become CEO, while Vidich will be tapped as prexy.

Warner Music Group reps said no decisions have been made.

Warner Music label chiefs are expected to hear of the new structure when they head to Burbank this week for the annual convention of WEA, the distributor of Warner music and video products. It kicks off Wednesday on the studio lot, and at the nearby Universal Sheraton. The announcement is expected to be made by Parsons and Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin.

But the Azzoli nod, if it happens, could spur some seismic shifts in the music arm’s exec suites.

Elektra Entertainment chairman Sylvia Rhone — who last year negotiated a new contract — and Warner Bros. Records chiefs Russ Thyret and Phil Quartararo will have to be mollified.

So will senior execs at Atlantic Records, as a skirmish over who will succeed Azzoli is also expected among execs Ron Shapiro, Jason Flom, Craig Kallman and Andrea Ganis.

Nevertheless, Azzoli has emerged as the lead candidate, because the label has several strong senior managers and a succession plan could be easily implemented.

Warner execs noted that while Azzoli lacks global experience, he’s become a Wall Street darling with his online and new-media programs designed to help promote Atlantic’s acts.

The soon-to-be-announced deal with former Polygram Music prexy Roger Ames also mitigates the need for a music topper with strong global ties.

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