The move was widely anticipated. Lewinter is only the latest top exec to follow Morris from Universal Music Group this year. Former Island Def Jam Music Group chairman-CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid came on board as chairman-CEO of SME’s Epic Records (Daily Variety, July 19). For months, industry chatter has said former Motown Records prexy Sylvia Rhone is also destined for an SME post.
Lewinter will be based in New York and reports directly to Morris.
Morris said in a memo to SME employees, “I have worked closely with Mel for many years and have a deep respect for his ability to balance business acumen with artistic vision. He has played an invaluable part in the success of Universal Music, MCA and Warner Music, and his keen insight and knowledge of the music business will be a major asset to our company.”
In the same memo, Lewinter said, “Over the years, Doug and I have formed a unique working relationship that is quite instinctive for both of us.”
Lewinter has been Morris’ loyal right hand for decades. He was most recently chairman-CEO of Universal Motown Republic Group, a title now held by Barry Weiss, who joined the company from SME’s Jive Label Group earlier this year.
Previously, Lewinter was vice chairman of MCA Music Entertainment Group, UMG’s precursor. During Morris’ tenure at Warner Music Group in the ’80s and ’90s, Lewinter held a variety of titles, including COO of WMG, executive vp of Warner Music U.S. and vice chairman of the Atlantic Group.