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Rhino layoffs signal shift in direction

Senior departures indicate digital refocus

Several top execs at Rhino Entertainment were let go last week as part of a round of layoffs, including Gregg Goldman (exec VP of business development), John Beug (senior VP of video), Jimmy Edwards (senior VP of business development) and Mike Engstrom and Kenny Nemes (veepees of marketing).

The layoffs slashed personnel at Rhino, Warner Music Group’s catalog division, on Friday, as anticipated (Daily Variety, Sept. 6). Actual number of terminations could not be determined; sources estimated the toll at 20-40 employees. Rhino had employed about 100.

Downsizing — which came a year to the month after Rhino’s last round of trims (Daily Variety, Sept. 25, 2009) — appeared aimed at both thinning the executive ranks and refocusing the WMG arm on a digitally based future.

A couple of the senior axings appear to indicate Rhino is moving away from a commitment to its rights management biz. Goldman and Edwards had overseen the division’s deal with the Frank Sinatra estate.

Cuts hit deepest in marketing, with two-thirds of the department’s staff reportedly let go; other departments — promotion, art, business affairs — were also affected.

One source said that staffers who work for the division’s Web site, Rhino.com, were unscathed by the downsizing.

A Rhino spokesman, in a statement, alluded to the diminishing opportunities for the company’s product at brick-and-mortar stores.

“The accelerating changes in the music industry’s landscape and accompanying declines in retail physical sales outlets are driving changes in how Rhino does business,” the company said. “While it is difficult to reduce staff, we are pleased that a number of the affected employees will be staying on temporarily to assist with the transition.”

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