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BMG’s big Lack attack

Exec's team in negotiations to renew his contract

Who wants Andy out?

That’s the question reverberating through the halls of Sony Corp. of America, where Andy Lack has consolidated operations of Sony Music Entertainment and BMG over the past year.

Unfortunately for the former NBC TV exec, the list is a long one. Bertelsmann, former BMG and even certain Sony America execs all have an interest in seeing Lack gone.

Lack’s team is in negotiations with the Sony BMG board — consisting of both Sony and Bertelsmann execs — to renew his contract to helm the music conglom. But Bertelsmann execs last week said they intend to oppose a renewed deal, setting off a flurry of Sony reassurances and charges of tactical maneuvering.

Bertelsmann chief creative officer Rolf Schmidt-Holtz has never had a good working relationship with Lack. It doesn’t help that Schmidt-Holtz is losing his main deputy at the company, former BMG chief operating officer Michael Smellie, and is incensed that Lack may eliminate the position — or worse, replace him with a Sony exec.

Sony BMG is moving quickly to address that concern and made a replacement for Smellie a key element in the talks with Bertelsmann. But that may not be enough to soothe the roiled waters. Relations with BMG’s top label exec, Clive Davis, are tenuous as he hasn’t signed a new employment contract.

Then there are the turf battles at Sony America, where a cadre of potential heirs is looking to succeed Howard Stringer as Sony America chief, or to fill an as-yet-uncreated position as head of Sony’s content businesses, including music, TV and film. Lack’s ascent to either position would face competition from Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton and Sony Entertainment exec VP Rob Wiesenthal.

For now, though, Lack has the support of Stringer, to whom he’s been close since their days at CBS. If Lack stays it will be a testament to the Welshman’s legendary diplomacy. Or, perhaps, to that John Mayer album posting big sales in the fourth quarter.

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