WB Music targets Ames

Ex-P'gram exec in talks with Warner Int'l for prexy post

Former Polygram Music prexy Roger Ames is in advanced negotiations to become prexy of Warner Music Intl. The highly complicated deal also includes Warner adding Ames’ London Records to its portfolio.

The move to hire Ames, who has been in discussions with Warner execs for months over many issues and recently settled some, also sets the stage for the ankling of Ramon Lopez, chairman of Warner Music Intl. Ames would report to Lopez before potentially succeeding him in an as yet to be determined timetable.

Under Lopez’s leadership, WMI has become primarily known for succeeding with U.S. acts on the world stage, though local artists and their repertoire have played a growing role in boosting the conglom’s international revenues.

Ames is being recruited by WMI because with his direction Polygram Music forged strong ties internationally and developed successful acts in key territories — in addition to succeeding with U.S. artists. Polygram, however, lacked strength in its domestic operation.

London calling

Once London is extricated from its domestic joint-venture pact with Universal Music Group (which inherited the deal when it acquired Polygram) it is expected to have its releases funneled through Sire Records Group.

Outside of the U.S., Ames owns London outright. The label is home to Rammstein, Harvey Danger and All Saints, among others.

Sire founder Seymour Stein bowed the Sire Records Group two years ago with designs (as a fourth label in the conglom’s Warner, Elektra and Atlantic family) to succeed with niche genres and on a somewhat smaller scale. (Daily Variety April 29, 1997).

The label hasn’t had a big success since it opened and conglom insiders suggest it is poised for an overhaul. Though the Sire scenario has not been carved in stone and could change, it is still the leading option for London acts.

Several issues with Ames remain to be resolved before any deal is closed or any major changes at Sire are implemented. Chief among them is whether Ames will be able to maintain equity in a label while chief of WMI (as he did while at Polygram) and whether WMI will fund the operation at a level Ames feels workable. Insiders said the two sides remain far apart on this latter issue and several others.

UMG is still negotiating which acts will remain with Ames and how much it will cost to extricate London from the joint venture.