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BMG’s Davis back in the driver’s seat

Exec tapped to lead revamped diskery

BMG has realigned its North American label structure, and put Clive Davis in charge of the operation.

Davis, 70, has been given the title of chairman-CEO of BMG North America, which combines all operations of Arista, J, RCA and Jive. Davis was previously chair-CEO of the RCA Music Group in which he oversaw RCA and J Records.

The move restores his stewardship of Arista, the label he founded in 1975 and from where he was forced out of the CEO chair in 2000. He then formed J Records, and in late 2002 he was named to lead the RCA Music Group.

Davis also will oversee BMG Distribution, BMG Strategic Marketing and BMG Canada. Administrative operations and certain support functions at the record labels will be consolidated — as they were when J and RCA merged and about 25% of the staff was cut — though there is no timetable for the restructuring.

“I have been given the mandate to oversee this operation and the fact that (BMG) has trust in me is very gratifying,” Davis said.

BMG, under the new configuration, has 10 of this week’s top 50 albums.

“The continuing difficulties in the worldwide music market requires us to be well prepared for the future,” said Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, chairman-CEO of BMG. “The new structure will efficiently strengthen our focus on our creative centers.”

Charles Goldstuck, president and chief operating officer, RCA Music Group, will become president-chief operating officer at BMG North America, where he will oversee the consolidated business operations and will continue to report directly to Davis. Schmidt-Holtz, chairman and CEO of BMG, made the announcement.

The group does not include RCA Label Group-Nashville, which is led by chairman Joe Galante, and BMG Classics, overseen by chairman Nicholas Firth.

No shakeups expected

With four-decade history of A&R savvy, Davis told Daily Variety he doubted there would be any shakeups at the labels among the artist rosters. “I don’t feel it is healthy to have specialized labels. Certainly all are involved in contemporary music, but we’re not going to have one for black music, one rock. The healthiest labels are not boutique labels.”

The immediate challenge for Davis and Goldstuck is to create and a foster a system for the digital delivery of music while maintaining the current retailing model.

While at the helm of J, Davis has orchestrated the careers of Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox, Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart. Since RCA was placed under his oversight, he has delivered hits from “American Idols” champs and Maroon 5. Jive’s artists include Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Arista’s roster is led by Sarah McLachlan and OutKast, which has sold 3.4 million copies of its latest chart topper, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” much of it on the watch of Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who replaced Davis at Arista, and ankled as prexy-CEO on Jan. 13. Insiders said his removal was a result of too much free-spending on artists.

“OutKast has made a landmark album that deserves a multitude of awards,” Davis said. “It’s similar to (Santana’s) ‘Supernatural’ in that it continues to grow. We’ll go much further with this album.”

A merger between Sony Music and BMG is under review by the European Union. The move is unrelated to the merger.

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