Werre, Gatfield and Mann all exit

EMI Music undertook an executive housecleaning Tuesday, with chief operating officer Ronn Werre, head of North American and U.K. A&R Nick Gatfield and international president of new music Billy Mann all ankling the troubled music company.

Shakeup comes less than three months after installation of Roger Faxon, formerly chairman-CEO of EMI Music Publishing, as group chief exec at the London-based major (Daily Variety, June 20).

While the company has seen some recent successes and improving quarterly results, it still faces massive bank debt that keeps it in financial jeopardy.

Moves could signal a significant change in the structure of EMI. Most senior staff had been charged with developing and marketing producton a global basis, rather than territory by territory. All three exiting execs had wide-ranging global responsibilities.

One knowledgeable observer believes Faxon could be eyeing a return to a more conventionally focused operational approach.

EMI president of central marketing and global catalog Ernesto Schmitt reportedly left the company in August, with EMI Music Publishing chief operating officer Leo Corbett taking his responsibilities on an interim basis.

Werre, president of EMI Music Services, added chief operating officer for North America and Mexico to his title last year. (David Kassler was simultaneously named COO for the rest of the world.)

Gatfield, who was previously president of Island Records, joined the company in 2008. Songwriter-producer Mann, whose clients have included Celine Dion, Pink and Joss Stone, came onboard as chief creative officer in January 2008 and was promoted to his most recent role that July.

An EMI spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

EMI employees were informed of the execs’ exits via internal memos on Tuesday morning.

Werre acknowledged his departure with a Facebook post: a YouTube clip of Bob Seger, a former Capitol Records artist, performing “Turn the Page.” In a post on his own page, Mann said, “So proud of my time with EMI … what a privilege.”

It has been a tumultuous six months in EMI’s executive suite. Faxon is firm’s third topper to serve this year. He replaced former ITV exec Charles Allen, who in March succeeded onetime consumer products packager Elio Leoni-Sceti, in place since July 2008 (Daily Variety, March 10).

Upon taking the reins this summer, Faxon announced his intention to turn EMI into a “comprehensive rights management company.”

Departing execs had overseen a spurt of renewed commercial health at EMI. Company’s recent U.S.-based successes include Capitol Records’ pop vocalist Katy Perry, whose “Teenage Dream” entered the U.S. album chart at No. 1 last week, and Capitol Nashville country trio Lady Antebellum, whose 2010 sophomore album “Need You Now” has sold more than 2.5 million to date.

The music company also reaped a catalog jackpot in 2009 with the heavily marketed re-release of the Beatles’ catalog on CD. In its most recent annual report, issued in August, EMI claimed worldwide sales of more than 10 million for the Fab Four packages (Daily Variety, Aug. 19).

Company’s net loss of £512 million ($785.6 million) was reduced by 67% from £1.5 billion logged during the fiscal year ended in March 2009.

Debt-burdened EMI has been on shaky ground since the 2007 purchase of the company for £4.2 billion by British equity firm Terra Firma Investments.

In December, Terra Firma sued lender Citigroup, charging it was maneuvered into paying a fraudulently inflated price for the music firm (Daily Variety, Dec. 14). Reports in August said the two companies would begin talks this month to settle their differences in an attempt to avoid a court trial. Hearings are set to begin Oct. 18 in New York.

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