×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Doug Morris to Exit Sony Music at the End of March

UPDATED: Doug Morris, the only person to be the top executive at all three major music companies, has secured funding for a new label and will exit his post as non-executive chairman of Sony Music Entertainment at the end of March, sources tell Variety. A report in Hits says that the new company will be called 12 Tone and that former Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels, who stepped down at the end of 2017, will be joining Morris.

While some reports said the new label is part of an unspecified partnership with Apple, a source close to the situation told Variety that those rumors are untrue and that Apple has no equity or investment in Morris’ endeavor. Reps for Morris, Bartels, Sony and Apple did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.

Morris’ exit from Sony completes a long transition that began with former Columbia Records CEO Rob Stringer being announced as Morris’ successor as CEO of Sony Music Entertainment in October of 2016 and officially taking the reins last April.

Morris, 79, leaves the company in much stronger shape than he found it when he joined the company officially in 2011 (news of his arrival first broke late in 2010). At the time Sony Music was plagued by infighting among executives and was still feeling the after-effects of an awkward merger with BMG in 2003. Morris quickly calmed the waters and led the company and two of its flagship labels, Columbia and Epic (RCA is also in the Sony family), to stability and success — particularly in 2015 and 2016, which saw Columbia releasing two giant albums from Adele and Beyonce. Adele’s “25” was not only the top-selling album in the U.S. for both 2015 and 2016, it set an all-time record for first-week sales by moving 3.38 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

After graduating from Columbia University, Morris began his career as a songwriter for music publisher Robert Mellin, Inc., writing the Chiffons’ 1966 hit “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” and producing records including Brownsville Station’s early 1970s hit “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.”  He also worked for Laurie Records as a writer and producer in the 1960s, eventually rising to vice president and general manager. Later, he launched his own label, Big Tree Records, which was distributed and eventually acquired by Atlantic Records in 1978.  This brought him into the Warner Music family, initially as president of Atco Records. In 1980 he was named president of Atlantic Records, eventually rising to co-chairman and co-CEO — with label cofounder Ahmet Ertegun — in 1990. He was named head of Warner Music Group in 1994 but an ugly corporate battle ensued that saw multiple executives leaving the company — ultimately including Morris in 1995. Almost immediately, he was named CEO of Universal Music Group, bringing several former colleagues from Warner with him —not least Interscope Records, the successful label he’d helped launch at WMG but left the company in the Death Row and gangsta-rap dust-ups in 1995. Morris went on to lead Universal to its acquisition of the PolyGram music group in 1998, which instantly made it the world’s largest music company — a position it has held ever since.

He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music and the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; among many other organizations, he also serves on the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It is no understatement to say that Morris has worked with virtually every major artist and executive over the course of a career that stretches back 50 years, and has helped to develop the careers of many of them.

More Biz

  • Phil McIntyre Steps Down as Roc

    Phil McIntyre Steps Down From Roc Nation Management, but Remains Affiliated With Company

    Phil McIntyre has stepped down as president of Roc Nation Management, but his PhilyMack management company remains affiliated with Roc, a source close to the situation tells Variety. PhilyMack, which McIntyre founded in 2006, partnered with Roc Nation in 2015. The source stressed that McIntyre’s role at Roc Nation Management  — whose clients include Rihanna, [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial

    Ben Brafman Drops Out of Harvey Weinstein Rape Case

    Harvey Weinstein has officially parted ways with defense attorney Ben Brafman, releasing a joint statement Thursday announcing the move. Weinstein had clashed with his defense attorney over strategy in his rape and sexual assault case. The pair issued a statement saying their parting was amicable, and that Brafman would cooperate fully with Weinstein’s new attorneys. [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Turns in Record Q4 Subscriber Gains, Price Increase Weighs on U.S. Forecast

    Netflix is beating Wall Street expectations for international subscriber growth — but its recently announced price increase in the U.S. may have put a damper on its momentum in the States. For the fourth quarter of 2018, Netflix reported 1.53 million paid net adds in the U.S. and 7.31 million internationally, to end the year [...]

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Live Nation Investigation of Heather Parry Also Targets Leakers (EXCLUSIVE)

    Over the past two weeks, the law firm of Paul Hastings LLP has been probing allegations reported by Variety last month that Heather Parry, the head of Live Nation Productions, had verbally abused employees and used offensive language in the workplace. But the lead investigator, Elena Baca, seems to be just as interested in uncovering [...]

  • Leslie Moonves

    Leslie Moonves to Pursue Arbitration for His $120 Million Severance From CBS

    Former CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves will pursue an arbitration claim to fight CBS for the $120 million severance that he was denied last month when the company’s board of directors determined he was fired for cause. Moonves was ousted in September after multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the longtime [...]

  • A view of the SK Telecom

    Korean OTT Players, SK Telecom Join Forces to Compete Against Netflix

    South Korea’s three major broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS have joined forces with the country’s leading telecom firm, SK Telecom, to launch a new video streaming platform. The move is regarded as a defensive reaction against the growing influence of foreign competitors, lead by Netflix. The broadcasters already jointly own Pooq, with MBC and SBS [...]

  • David Lubliner Moves to UTA From

    Veteran WME Agent David Lubliner to Join UTA

    William Morris Endeavor agent David Lubliner is departing the company for a post at United Talent Agency, individuals familiar with the move told Variety. The parting of ways was amicable, the insiders added. Lubliner was a veteran in WME’s motion picture literary department. Rumors of his exit had been floating since Hollywood reopened for the new [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content