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"Luke and Mike are friends. It was Luke's idea to bring him in.”
NASHVILLE INSIDERS TALK DUNGAN & LEWIS… BUT NOT TO US
The Indefatigable Chris Willman Does the Legwork So That We Don’t Have To
After UMG went public on Mike Dungan’s forthcoming move from Capitol Nashville to Universal Nashville Wednesday morning (see story), a number of insiders were more than happy to give their takes on the situation to veteran music journalist Chris Willman, writing in The Hollywood Reporter. They had a lot to say about both Dungan and current UMG Nashville topper Luke Lewis, who will launch a new venture under the Universal umbrella, according to the company. Here are the people Chris managed to get on the phone, and what they told him:

An unidentified manager of an EMI act: “Anything could happen with the merger, but I’m confident we’ll be working with [Dungan] again by the end of the year. He’s left a good support team in place, so I’m not that worried. But there are those moments when you’re looking to get a hit across and Mike would be the guy to make a few phone calls to push it to the top. I’m a little nervous what we’ll do without his ability to come in and do that.”

 A mover-and-shaker who’s been close to Lewis: “Luke wanted out. He’s done this long enough, and he has two young kids at home. I think he just wants to run an independent label or something now. He wanted Mike as his successor.”

An unnamed source: "Luke and Mike are friends. It was Luke's idea to bring him in, and it came months before Universal was even contemplating a bid to buy EMI."

A former Capitol exec who still admires Dungan: “When times were tough for EMI a few years ago and they were pressuring Mike big-time to put out albums earlier than he thought they were ready, he never wavered or caved, ever. He fought for his label team and artists against EMI at times, and kept everyone feeling like a family, even in hard times. He’s one of the most-liked guys in this town—and, he can cuss up a storm.”

Another manager: “He’s going to have to make a lot of roster cuts, especially if the merger happens, and that’s the kind of stuff he really, really hates.”

Yet another insider related a story that’s been going around Music City: Sony Nashville head Gary Overton was flummoxed recently when both Dungan and Lewis showed up at a wine tasting event at his house, fearful that the two execs would be feuding over the transition-to-be. But the two label chiefs proceeded to surprise everyone in attendance by sitting down together and chatting up a storm.

As Willman points out, Dungan leaves Capitol Nashville at a fairly convenient time, when most of its acts are between albums or on a second or third single off their latest projects like Urban, whose "You Gonna Fly" is currently No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, and Bentley, whose "Home" is bulleted at No. 4.

Willman also reiterated a point made numerous times last year by our industry insider I.B. Bad, writing: Although Lewis and [Joe] Galante were long the two titans in town, the most buzz-generating label heads in the last couple of years have been Dungan and Big Machine upstart Scott Borchetta.

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