Hollywood Records prexy Bob Pfeifer abruptly ankled his post late Wednesday after nearly four years at the Walt Disney Co. record label and more than two as its chief. Pfeifer, a record producer and recording artist, said he will return to more creative pursuits.
The ouster had been speculated about for months and sources said it partly reflected the new role Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth will have in overseeing the conglom’s music interests, which also includes Walt Disney Records. Previously, Walt Disney Co. chairman/CEO Michael Eisner solely oversaw the operation of the labels.
In the interim, Hollywood Records exec veep Richard Leher will run the label while a new chief is sought. Names suggested for the post have included Roy Lott, Arista Records exec veep/G.M. and Phil Quartararo, Virgin Records prexy.
Though the attention at the Disney stockholders meeting was mostly on the studio’s severance package paid to Michael Ovitz, a few noticed that Hollywood Records broke into the black last year for the first time.
“(Bob) leaves a far-stronger business than the one he was named to lead three years ago,” Eisner said in a statement.
To his credit, Pfeifer has made Hollywood among the handful of labels known for nurturing talent rather than relying on quick hits, and has stuck with its artists even after disappointing record sales on first releases. He also negotiated a potent distribution pact with Polygram.
Though the label was initially derisively known for releasing albums from Queen, the British rock group whose lead singer Freddy Mercury died of AIDS, sources said Pfeifer turned the label from relying on 40% of its annual sales from Queen discs to less than 10% with new artist signings and soundtracks adding to the label’s coffers.
“I feel that I have grown both as a person and an executive…,” said Pfeifer. “But I started as a musician and it’s time for me to get back to more creative and less administrative pursuits.”
Pfeifer’s exit follows marketing veep Diarmuid Quinn’s move last week to the Work Group, the Jeff Ayeroff/Jordan Harris-run Sony Music label.
As a former member of the Human Switchboard, Pfeifer also created an artist-friendly environment and helped give the label some credibility within the artistic community. As an A&R veep at Epic Records, he signed Alice Cooper, Screaming Trees and Joe Satriani, among others.
Although Hollywood’s successes included the soundtrack to “The Crow: City of Angels,” which sold more than a million copies, and well-received releases from artists Gwen Mars, Suicide Machines, Super 8 and Leftover Salmon, the label failed to become a player in the highly competitive marketplace to the corporate parent’s satisfaction.