"I'm incredibly happy. It's a tremendous and unprecedented opportunity to be working in tandem with Doug, Lyor and Jimmy [Iovine], and to have the benefit of their powerful international forces, led by Jorgen Larsen."
——Mariah Carey, on her new deal


The Much-Sought-After Diva Chooses
Lyor Cohen, Island Def Jam
Mariah Carey will be slipping on that little black dress for Lyor Cohen's Island Def Jam Music Group—and Jerry Blair will be zipping it up for her.

After weeks of deliberation, the free-agent diva has decided to enter into a business marriage with Cohen’s label, one that will result in Carey getting a label of her own, which will be run by Blair, who helped Carey achieve a record-breaking 15 #1 singles while at Columbia. The official announcement was made by Universal Music Group Chairman/CEO Doug Morris, along with Cohen.

"I'm incredibly happy," said Carey. "It's a tremendous and unprecedented opportunity to be working in tandem with Doug, Lyor and Jimmy [Iovine], and to have the benefit of their powerful international forces, led by Jorgen Larsen. They have collectively helped redefine pop music, and I am excited to be part of their family."

The "multi-platform integration" of Carey and her recently established media company into the Vivendi Universal system is dubbed "a unique partnership" between Ms. Carey and Vivendi Universal Entertainment Committee members Morris, Cohen, Interscope Geffen A&M chief Iovine and Universal Music International Chairman Larsen. The group will coordinate Carey's career across a variety of VU's print, TV, film and online marketing brands.

Said Morris: "Mariah is an international treasure, and when she became a free agent, all of us at Universal saw it as a one-time opportunity, since artists of her caliber seldom become available. Our approach will exemplify the kind of comprehensive effort we're uniquely positioned to deliver, thanks to the commitment of [Chairman] Jean-Marie Messier to building VU into a world leader. Our approach moves above and beyond the concept of a standard marketing plan by seamlessly integrating a variety of elements that will allow us to be more efficient and effective in our outreach to fans. They will see Mariah in places and ways they've never seen before. And no, I don't mean in the office commissary, either."

Added Cohen: "Despite offers from many of our competitors, we are delighted Mariah has chosen Island as the place to begin the next phase of her unprecedented career. Thanks to the overwhelming support of Doug Morris, that's exactly what we are going to do with Mariah by taking advantage of Vivendi Universal's unparalleled brands and resources."

Said Iovine: "The signing of a superstar like Mariah is a testament to Doug Morris' vision for UMG. He has successfully created the first global music company whose different divisions all operate with a level of cohesiveness that is unprecedented in the industry."

Carey recently returned to the studio to begin work on her first project since 2001’s disastrous Glitter. This project will presumably now be part of her IDJ deal.

Some have contended that the diva may have damaged her career beyond repair with her recent flops in music and film. But even though most agree some damage has been done, there are players who insist that, if Carey is willing to take input from Cohen and his crew, she still has a tremendous upside.

"Mariah is the greatest singer of our time," says Blair, who was most recently at Arista. "She's an incredible songwriter, producer and businesswoman. There is no one who has a closer relationship with her fans. The landscape has forever changed in the music business. This situation creates a new template, and is the guarantor of her legacy. It is a logical progression for Mariah to have her own company working in conjunction with the world's biggest music entity. And it gives me a chance to cash another paycheck."

According to Blair, a name and initial staff appointments for the label will be anounced within the next week to 10 days.

Ironically, Carey’s in-demand status followed a horrendous turn at Virgin, which immediately preceded her very public breakdown. All that Glitter barely turned to Gold, let alone Platinum, for EMI, so the marriage between the music giant's Virgin label and the diva was annulled in January.

At that time, EMI Recorded Music chief Alain Levy decided the risks weren't worth the benefits of the record-breaking five-album, $120-million deal, which had been made in April 2001 by his predecessor, Ken Berry, along with his ex-wife, then Virgin chief Nancy Berry. Said deal called for a $23.5 million advance per album. Levy bought out the remainder of the pact for $28 million, and Carey was also able to hang onto the more than $21 million previously paid to her in advances, giving her a total of around $50 million after delivering just a single album. EMI's total outlay had it not ended the arrangement could have reached upward of $150-200 million over the course of the five-album contract. Between $13-14 million was spent marketing Glitter, which to date has sold just 2 million globally and a hair over 500k in the U.S.

The dumping of Carey came at a time when EMI bosses Levy and David Munns had been focused on the company's worldwide operations, looking for ways to cut costs. At the time, EMI Corporate said the $50 million to Carey would be taken as a one-time charge for its fiscal year ending March 31.

Carey went to EMI/Virgin from Sony Music/Columbia, where her records have cumulatively sold over 100 million units worldwide, making her the best-selling female performer of all time. Through her years at Sony, Carey had been a consistent top seller, with her best, 1995's Daydream, topping out at 24 million units worldwide, while her last for the label, Rainbow, sold 6.8 million. She has won Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Female Vocalist, and became the first artist to top the charts in each year of the '90s. She recently experienced her 15th #1 single, "Thank God I Found Out," making her the artist with the most cumulative weeks spent atop the singles charts.