Sony BMG's longtime lieutenants exit

Don Ienner and Michele Anthony have brought to a close the longest-running management team in the music business as the two resigned their posts atop Sony Music on Thursday.

Rob Stringer, brother of Sony chief Howard Stringer, will take over as president of the Sony Music Label Group on Sept. 1. A 20-year vet of Sony Music, he is currently chairman-chief exec of Sony BMG Music Entertainment in U.K. and Ireland, a post he’s held since the September 2004 merger.

For the four years prior, he was chairman-CEO for Sony Music U.K. and Ireland. Rob Stringer worked in marketing and A&R at Columbia Records before he became managing director for Epic U.K. in 1992.

“Now is the perfect time for (Stringer) to take on this senior role,” Sony BMG chief exec Rolf Schmidt-Holtz wrote in a memo sent to employees Thursday.

Tim Bowen, chief operating officer of Sony BMG, will run the Sony Music Label Group until Stringer’s arrival.

Ienner and Anthony had been the bedrock of the management team at Sony Music for the last 12 years, with Ienner operating the Columbia Records Group and Anthony in Sony’s corporate structure.

Their departure is akin to the ankling of Bob Daly and Terry Semel from Warner Bros. nearly seven years ago; Sony Music had long taken pride in the stability that the two execs brought to the company.

Both had been acquiring new titles at a staggering rate within the last few years, which to some observers was an indication that their departure was imminent.

Ienner was named chairman of Sony Music Label Group two months ago, when Rolf Schmidt-Holtz swapped jobs with Andrew Lack and became chief exec of Sony BMG. In 2004, he had added CEO to his year-old title of president of Sony Music Label Group.

The label group includes Columbia Records, Epic Records, Sony Music Nashville and Sony Urban. Between 1989 and 2002, Ienner was president of Columbia Records Group. Columbia Records, under Ienner’s guidance, had the top market share of all labels for seven years in a row.

Anthony, the highest-ranking woman in the music business, was elevated to prexy of the Sony Music Label Group U.S. in December, a little more than a year after being named COO of the label group.

She has held the title of exec VP at Sony BMG Music Entertainment since the two companies merged; she had been exec veep of Sony Music since 1994, and besides being part of the music company’s management, she acted as a liaison to other Sony divisions and government agencies. A music lawyer, she joined Sony Music in 1990 as senior VP, working on special projects, establishing regional A&R offices and new business.

The shakeup within the Sony Music side is expected to continue with the departure or reassignment of Columbia Records prexy Steve Greenberg. He replaced Will Botwin, who ascended to chairman in February 2005. Botwin ankled late last year and was replaced by Epic Records’ Steve Barnett.

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