Liles ankles Def Jam

Contract talks fail for U Music label's prexy

Kevin Liles, who had worked his way up from an internship to the presidency of Universal Music’s Def Jam label, has left his post as president.

Liles had been working since the end of last year without a contract, and negotiations on a new deal ended this week with his resignation. Sources said an announcement regarding his next step could be made soon.

Liles was reporting to Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who has been chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group since February. Immediate speculation suggested that Reid, who previously ran Arista and LaFace, could take on the running of the label. Steve Bartels has run Island Records since May.

In the same Manhattan executive suites, Kedar Massenburg has quietly stepped away from the helm of Motown Records to head up a new, as-yet-unnamed division of Universal Music that will coordinate efforts between outside companies and artists.

Massenburg has been actively bringing in companies such as Chrysler, Ford, the Gap and Kmart to finance promotional and marketing materials such as videos for Universal artists. Estimates on the money brought in so far through these ventures run as high as $250 million. The new standalone unit would involve all of U’s labels.

During his 19 years at Def Jam, which started when he was an intern for label co-founder Russell Simmons, Liles held a variety of posts. Most recently, he signed deals to release albums from Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella and Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. imprints; he also signed rappers Shine and Ludacris.

“Over the past decade,” Reid said in a statement, “Kevin Liles has made remarkable contributions in establishing Def Jam as one of the great brands in the music business. We wish him much success as he moves into the next phase of his career.”

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