Under the terms of the pact, Houston will deliver at least six albums and two greatest-hits compilations for Arista, which has been home to the R&B chanteuse since the start of her career. She is expected to head into the studio within weeks to begin work on her first LP under the new deal, to be exec produced by Arista topper Antonio “L.A.” Reid.
Contract eclipses the reported $80 million-plus offer used by EMI imprint Virgin Records to woo Mariah Carey from Sony Music in April. Carey, whose first release under the deal is the soundtrack to her upcoming film “Glitter,” suffered a physical and emotional breakdown earlier this week, and is being treated in a New York-area hospital.
Deal reps a mammoth bet on the future for Arista parent BMG Entertainment, which is facing a $150 million loss for the year and planning to lay off hundreds of employees worldwide.
News of the Houston resigning also quashes speculation that the singer was mulling a defection to J Records, the year-old startup founded by her former mentor, Arista founder Clive Davis.
Reid said Houston was committed to staying with the label all along.
“We didn’t have to fight for it,” the exec told Daily Variety. “Whitney was a big supporter of the company from the get-go — there was never any conversation about her leaving.”
Davis was ousted from the top spot at Arista and replaced by Reid in May 2000 amid a disagreement with execs at BMG over succession at the label.
At the time, speculation ran high that many top Arista acts, including Houston and multiplatinum-selling guitarist Carlos Santana, might bolt the label out of loyalty to the former chief. To date, Arista has managed to hang on to most of its major acts.
Houston is one of the biggest-selling solo artists of all time, shifting more than 140 million albums, singles and videos in her 18-year career at Arista. Her most recent release, a double-CD greatest-hits compilation that bowed in April 2000, has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.