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A delay to Morris’s long-rumored arrival could require Sony to ask Schmidt-Holtz to stay longer, or to appoint an interim executive to lead the company.
WHEN WILL MORRIS BE ALLOWED TO CHANGE HORSES?
Four Months Separate the Date Sony Wants the UMG Chairman to Start and the Earliest Vivendi Will Agree to Let Him Go, Sources Tell FT
There’s a soon-to-be-empty throne at 550 Madison Ave. reserved for Doug Morris, but when will he be free to sit in it? Two people familiar with the negotiations between the UMG Chairman and Vivendi regarding an early exit clarified the picture in a story posted this morning in the Financial Times.

According to these insiders, Sony wants Morris to start his new job as Sony Music Chairman/CEO in April, immeidately after the departure of Rolf Schmidt-Holtz for his new gig at Hamburg-based Teveo. But the earliest departure date Vivendi will agree to is July. A Vivendi official said Morris was under contract until the end of the year.

A third person familiar with the discussions cautioned that no agreement had been signed and no announcement was imminent. UMG, Sony and Sony Music declined to comment.

A delay to Morris’s long-rumored arrival could require Sony to ask Schmidt-Holtz to stay longer, or to appoint an interim executive to lead the company, the sources noted.

In the article, FT New York correspondent Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson then dollied back to take a nicely framed snapshot of the Big Four at this unsettled moment.

“The tug-of-war between Sony and Vivendi comes as Sony Music and Universal are watching potential auctions at their smaller rivals, EMI and Warner Music,” the reporter points out, “with concern that a combination could create stronger competition, and hope ownership changes may shake out assets they could add to their own portfolios, or allow them to lure away worried artists. “Neither company would be allowed to buy EMI or Warner’s recorded music assets in full, but they could buy individual catalogues and countries. Sony/ATV…has looked at the Warner/Chappell publishing business.

“Warner Music has appointed advisers to weigh offers for some or all of the company, but also covets EMI, which will fall into Citigroup’s control in July unless Terra Firma…can find at least £100m ($160m) more to put into the British company he bought on the eve of the financial crisis in 2007.

“The prospect of two music groups changing hands has attracted attention from private equity groups including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Permira and Apollo—and every large rival music publisher and recorded music company. However, discussions are at an early stage and initial proposals—including some between Hands and Warner—have lacked financial detail.”

In a postscript, the piece notes that Vivendi Chairman Jean-Bernard Levy, when asked at MIDEM whether UMG would want any parts of EMI, caustically replied, “Not the debt.”

Levy also inimated that Spotify, which has so far signed up only Sony Music for a U.S. launch, may be close to agreement with UMG, saying he expected Spotify “to find agreements with all its partners that it could launch as early as possible in the United States.”

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