Exec succeeds Doug Morris at Vivendi company

Ensuring an orderly transition of power at the world’s biggest music company, Lucian Grainge has been promoted to chief executive officer of Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, succeeding Doug Morris.

Grainge — chairman-chief executive officer of London-based Universal Music Group Intl. since 2005, and a senior Universal executive for a decade — will assume the post on Jan. 1. As part of the transition, he will relocate to New York in July and serve as co-CEO for six months with Morris, who will remain as UMG chairman.

Although expected, the timing of the announcement, issued by Vivendi’s Paris office, took some employees in the label group’s New York office by surprise, given that Grainge won’t solely step into the new position until the new year.

According to knowledgeable sources, Grainge will assume day-to-day responsibilities for the group, while Morris, who has three more years left on his contract, will continue to oversee the big picture. Grainge, who was hired by Morris, will report to Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman of the Paris-based Vivendi Management Board. Vivendi assumed 100% ownership of UMG in 2006.

A music industry lifer with roots in publishing and A&R, Grainge held posts in the U.K. at Polydor Records, Polygram Music Publishing, MCA Records, RCA Music Publishing and publisher April Music.

During his time at UMG Intl., Grainge reportedly pushed digital sales and forged inroads into the flagging music industry’s more promising sectors such as merchandise, live-event production and artist management, according to Reuters. Grainge also oversaw the unit at a time when it forged technology alliances with mobile phone groups such as Vodafone and Nokia plus feevees Virgin Media and BSkyB.

“His track record speaks for itself, finding stars, growing revenues and building new business models,” Levy said in a statement.

Morris, who is 71, is stepping down from his chief executive role at UMG after 15 years atop the company. In a statement, Morris said, “The time has come for Lucian to step up to the CEO role. I am very happy with the new organization, as I have been grooming him to succeed me for quite a while now.”

In 1995, Morris was appointed chairman-CEO of the company, then known as MCA Music Entertainment Group, after executive stints at Warner Music Group, Atlantic Recording Group, and Atco Records. Following UMG’s merger with Polygram in 1998, Morris led the firm to a dominating position as the worldwide market share leader.

More recently, Morris initiated alliances with Google’s YouTube site to launch Vevo, intended as a premium destination for music videos and other types of custom audiovisual entertainment. Initial co-founder Sony Music Entertainment, as well as subsequent partner EMI, are onboard the enterprise, billed as the Hulu of the music biz.

UMG commanded a 37% market share in 2009, with Sony Music a distant second at 28%, according to Billboard. UMG Labels include Interscope/Geffen, A&M and Island Def Jam, with such artists as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, U2, Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Eminem and catalogs such as Jimi Hendrix and the various artists on Motown on the roster.

(Steve Chagollan contributed to this report.)

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