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The exit of the pair from Sony Music today may have stunned the record business, but insiders say it was the result of the “perfect storm,” a confluence of three major factors.
I.B. BAD: THE DONNIE & MICHELE SHOW ENDS ITS SONY RUN
Duo Appear the Victims of Corporate Perfect Storm as They Depart After Almost Two Decades
All anybody in the music industry could say this morning was “Wow!”  It truly is the end of an era.

Don Ienner, who joined Columbia Records in 1989 at the age of 36, led the company to a record seven consecutive years as marketshare leaders and, along with longtime partner Michele Anthony, has long been considered one of the industry’s most formidable music execs.

The exit of the pair from Sony Music today may have stunned the record business, but insiders say it was the result of the “perfect storm,” a confluence of three major factors:

1. Sony Music labels have been pretty cold this year until last week’s release of the Dixie Chicks’ new album, placing just two releases in the Top 50 sales year to date in Epic’s Shakira (#25, 655k) and Columbia’s Il Divo (#31, 624k). Most handicappers believe, no way this goes down if they were hot.

2. All the executive turmoil at the corporate level didn’t help matters, either, with the Rolf Schmidt-Holtz-Andrew Lack face-off, the Michael Smellie-Tim Bowen fracas and the shuttering of Sony Nashville revealing marked differences in the cultures of Sony and BMG. Add to that this year’s departure of Will Botwin as Columbia Chairman and the probable exit of Steve Greenberg as short-term President of Columbia.

3. It would appear this is a move orchestrated by Schmidt-Holtz, who has quickly become a trusted confidante of Sony chief Sir Howard Stringer, to integrate the two overly competitive partners and unify the company cultures by moving Sony vet Rob Stringer, who has been at the company as long as Ienner and Anthony, into the vacancy created by the duo’s resignations. Stringer doesn’t have the long-standing history of animosity and anxiety-laden competition the previous hierarchy had with its BMG colleagues, which was making the full integration of the company difficult, according to those close to Stringer and Schmidt-Holtz..

So where does that leave Ienner and Anthony?

Either or both would be valuable additions to a newly merged EMI-WMG, who could certainly use their expertise and motivational abilities. UMG, where Doug Morris has a track record as the premier collector of executive talent, could be another destination. Will Donnie remain inside the corporate sector or return to his entrepreneurial roots with what will surely be a hefty exit package? Will he remain teamed with Anthony?

Stay tuned. The action’s just getting started.

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