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I.B. BAD'S NEAR TRUTHS:
WHAT'S GOING ON
All Your Music Business News, Gossip and
Cheap Innuendo
Now that the EC's statement of objections to Sony-BMG has been made public, handicappers have once again decreased the deal's odds, saying the regulators' concerns look too much like those that ultimately killed two previous merger attempts. Those in the know say a complete reversal of the EC's previous position seems unlikely, even amid the radical changes that have rocked the business. Both companies issued detailed written replies this week to counter the EC's issues with "tacit collusion" by pointing to the increasing role of big-box retailers in bringing down prices. An Oral Hearing will follow in Brussels next week (6/14-15) before the Commission makes its decision, which could come at any time up to the July 22 deadline. The companies have until June 22 to address any corrections recommended by the EC. Already, Impala, the European confederation of indie labels, threatens to take legal action if the merger is approved. Does Mario Monti's impending exit from the regulatory world play into the EC's current stance? ... The WMG/Maverick legal throwdown did not get resolved at last week’s New York pow-wows, though those close to the situation on the WMG side say they think they’re getting close. Once the value of the label is clearly established, conventional wisdom is that WMG will write a check and end up owning 100% of the label. At that point, decisions will be made as to what artists, and executive personnel, to retain...  Following Roger Ames loyalist Helen Murphy’s not-unexpected departure from the new WMG (she and Edgar Bronfman Jr. previously butted heads in ’98-’99 when Seagram bought PolyGram),  there are several possible replacements making the rounds. Insiders insist the naming of Bain Capitol’s Michael Ward as interim CFO signals that WMG’s equity investors want to have one of their own minding the store, though most think the job requires someone with music-business chops.    Among the names being bandied about for the gig are Terri Santisi, currently media industry director at accounting giant KPMG. Another is Sony Music CFO Kevin Kelleher, who is said to be unhappy with his job under the new administration. With the Sony-BMG merger looking increasingly less likely to happen, Kelleher may view the WMG job as more challenging. Meanwhile, many are expecting WMG’s Dave Johnson, an ex-Sony exec, to be the next to exit. Johnson and Lyor Cohen are said to have a bit of history dating back to when Def Jam was with Sony. As the purging continues, where does Venezuelan businessman Alex Zubillaga, a close Bronfman associate, fit in? Considered WMG’s de facto #2 guy, Edgar’s Lexa Partners colleague is viewed by many to be his consigliere... The revelation in the EC’s objections to Sony-BMG that one or both companies may be required to sell their pub  assets has some speculating that the new Sony brass, said to be underwhelmed with their current publishing business, could easily find a buyer for its Sony ATV, half-owned by Michael Jackson. Is this part of Andrew Lack’s “Plan B” for Sony?... Speaking of publishing, what’s up with DreamWorks Publishing? Is a deal in the works?... Speaking of Jacko, as the embattled star is poised to become a free agent, John McClain has reportedly bolted the Jackson camp, leaving John Branca and Charles Koppelman as senior music advisors... Following the success of the recent Simon & Garfunkel tour, are advisors close to Brian Wilson attempting to mount a reunion of the surviving Beach Boys?... With the now-combined Atlantic-Elektra’s seemingly weak release schedule through Q4, are label execs offering sizable bonus checks to major artists as incentive to hand in albums that can come out by year’s end? One reportedly approached is Jewel, whose Atlantic deal has one more album to go, and is without a rabbi at the label since Ron Shapiro’s exit. Will she accept their offer to deliver a new record with an inducement to re-up or will manager Irving Azoff and barrister Eric Greenspan take her into free agency, where she is sure to be much in demand? Names in the Rumor Mill: Rick Shoemaker, Guy Oseary, Russell Simmons, Joel Katz, Val Azzoli, Fantasy Records and Manny Gerard...
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