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By taking not one but two franchises to unprecedented heights, in each case overseeing and getting the most out of a core of superstar artists and executives, Morris can be seen as the music business equivalent of Phil Jackson.
I.B. BAD REFLECTS ON DOUG'S CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
It's the End of one Record-Shattering Era and the Beginning of the Next for Legends Doug Morris and Barry Weiss
Doug Morris ended his nearly 16-year reign at UMG last week, closing out what many mistakenly believed would be the final chapter in a remarkable career. By taking not one but two franchises to unprecedented heights, in each case overseeing and getting the most out of a core of superstar artists and executives, Morris can be seen as the music business equivalent of Phil Jackson. Developing his chops as part of the executive stable of Warner Communications assembled by the legendary Steve Ross, Morris went on to perpetuate Ross’ game-changing management philosophy. Ross hired and empowered entrepreneurial executives who had formed and run their own indie label, including the Erteguns, Jac Holzman, Mo Ostin, Joe Smith, David Geffen, Bob Krasnow and Morris. Like Ross, Morris was part of a seismic shift in the culture, helping create a sort of hybrid indie/major gestalt that enabled great artistry to rise to the top, uniting the creative and the commercial as never before, and forming the template for the latter-day record business. Morris has been in the vanguard of this evolution for more than three decades, adding up to one of the most impressive streaks in music industry annals… Although he can’t start at Sony Music until July 1, Morris has already set up offices on the East Side of Manhattan, where he’ll spend the next four months formulating his plans. It’s no accident that each core member of the team Morris assembled and cultivated at UMG—Jimmy Iovine, L.A. Reid, Monte Lipman, Sylvia Rhone and Lyor Cohen—exemplified the same indie entrepreneurial attitude as Ross’ original crew. (Interestingly, Cohen spent nearly a decade refining his skill sets under Morris before jumping ship from IDJ in early 2004 to take Edgar Bronfman’s offer.) Which leads to the most pressing question on Morris’ checklist: Where will he find his SME rainmakers?... One of Morris’ SME heavyweights could conceivably be Reid, should he and Lucian Grainge be unable to agree on a new role for him at UMG (Reid’s current deal runs through the end of the year), or should Morris’ offer be more tempting. Already considered by his peers to be one of the two or three most productive executives of the last 10 years, Reid has never been hotter than he is right now, personally overseeing a virtually unrivaled roster of personally developed acts including his latest superstar triumvirate of Rihanna, Kanye West and Justin Bieber, as well as his latest high-profile signing, Jennifer Lopez. The J.Lo pickup exemplifies Reid’s astuteness—approaching clairvoyance in this case—as he anticipated her career being reignited by Idol several months before she was chosen as a judge. It now appears that Lopez could become bigger than ever. In the early going, the show’s 10th season appears to be a big success, thanks in large part to the appeal of Lopez (who’s as disarming and gorgeous as ever) and Steven Tyler… In the same arena, Simon Cowell is said to still be interested establishing a role for Reid at Syco and/or The X Factor… If the rumors that Morris, Grainge and Cowell all want Reid are true, he couldn’t possibly be in a better position than he is right now… How much does the unsettled Reid situation impact Barry Weiss’ new job as the head of UMG’s East Coast operations? While it’s apparent that Weiss will have oversight of Lipman’s Universal Republic and Rhone’s Universal Motown, it’s unclear what his role will be regarding IDJ. If Reid leaves, or if his function within UMG changes dramatically, might Weiss himself become the de facto head of IDJ?... As the Reid negotiations play out, it’s important to note that Grainge is a fierce competitor and an extremely aggressive dealmaker with a history of squelching the competition and getting what he wants. Most observers believe it was precisely this take-no-prisoners executive style that enabled Grainge to maintain his dominance over the competition in his previous jobs as the head of Universal’s U.K. and international operations... Returning to the other big story of 2011—the EMI/WMG conundrum—if Warner sells recorded music, what happens to Lyor Cohen? Does he become free agent, or part of either Morris’ or Grainge’s executive hierarchy? Alternatively, is there a place for Cohen with the buyer of WMG assets? In any case, he’ll be getting another big check when all or part of WMG is sold. Meanwhile, the field of bidders has reportedly been narrowed down, but it remains to be seen which of them will be able to secure the financing to close the deal... Names in the rumor mill: Clive Davis, Steve Bartels, Dr. Dre and Nigel Lythgoe.

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