Hip-Hop News: Shake-Up Among Largest Record Labels
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
1/24/2004 8:28:07 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Russell Simmons, Ashanti and Jay-Z.

Launching a surprising raid on the world's biggest record company, Edgar Bronfman Jr. is close to signing Vivendi Universal rap mogul Lyor Cohen to a top post at the newly constituted Warner Music Group, sources said Friday.

The deal — which is said to include an equity stake in Warner for Cohen — could be announced as soon as this weekend.

If Cohen jumps from his job as chairman of Universal's Island Def Jam label to Bronfman's team, the move promises to touch off management shakeups at two of the five major record conglomerates.

It also would send a clear signal that Bronfman — who led an investor group that is buying Time Warner Inc.'s global music division for $2.6 billion — isn't hesitant to lay out enormous paychecks for executive talent, even as he prepares to cut costs at the company.

Neither Cohen nor Bronfman could be reached. Their representatives declined to comment.

The arrival of Cohen, who would probably be named chief of Warner Music's domestic operation, would mark the first step in a sweeping reorganization that is expected to result in the exit of hundreds of employees and several top executives.

It is unclear what the move would mean for Roger Ames, the veteran talent whiz who had been chairman of the Time Warner unit for four years.

Cohen's departure also would send shock waves through industry leader Vivendi Universal, where he had emerged as a star executive, racking up hits in recent years from such acts as Jay-Z, Ashanti and DMX. Cohen had been in talks to renew his contract at Vivendi.

Despite his successful track record, last year wasn't Cohen's best. His label suffered from weak sales. And jurors hit Def Jam and Cohen with a $132-million judgment after finding them liable for reneging on a deal that would have allowed an independent label to release a potentially lucrative album featuring Def Jam star Ja Rule.

A federal judge later reduced the award to $53 million.

Cohen started his music career as a club promoter. He went on to become co-owner of Def Jam with Russell Simmons. The two sold the rap label to Universal for more than $100 million.

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