With Smellie gone, power shifts to Sony

Exec to leave chief operating officer position by Dec. 31

Michael Smellie’s announcement that he’s leaving Sony BMG Music Entertainment leaves the conglom with a U.S. management team top-heavy with Sony Music execs.

Led by Andy Lack, whom Howard Stringer tapped to replace Tommy Mottola prior to the merger, the Sony BMG exec VP offices now are occupied by Sony Music’s Michele Anthony and Kevin Kelleher.

The four seats of international operation are split between Sony and BMG execs; the Asia operation currently has a temporary head, Kelvin Wadsworth, while the company searches for a replacement for Richard Denekamp.

Smellie, a key force in the integration of Sony Music and BMG, will leave his position of chief operating officer Dec. 31. He will return to his home in Sydney and will be a consultant to the company next year.

While Sony and BMG execs were awaiting European Union approval of their merger almost two years ago, Smellie told Daily Variety he wasn’t sure what his role would be and that he was perfectly happy to head back to Australia and spend his time boating.

“Sony BMG and the industry is losing one of its best leaders,” said Patrick Reilly, a senior VP at Sirius Satellite Radio and a former BMG exec. “He had no patience for the monkey business that went on in the music industry, yet he was thoroughly of the music industry.”

Smellie and Kelleher forged the two music companies into a single behemoth. At the time of the merger, BMG’s labels had considerable momentum in the marketplace, while Sony was a model of consistency. Smellie and Lack have both told Daily Variety their top concern is profitability, and several former BMG staffers feel Smellie’s expertise was keeping costs in check.

The former head of BMG’s Asia ops, Smellie oversaw a number of BMG’s worldwide departments, including finance, legal and business affairs and new technologies/strategic development.

A Sony BMG spokesman said it is unlikely a successor would be announced any time soon.

(Michael Learmonth in New York contributed to this report.)

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