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 UMG’S FERDY
TO SONY?

The latest rumours coming out of Blighty have Ferdy Unger-Hamilton exiting the presidency of Universal’s Polydor to form a joint venture with Jason Iley’s Sony Music. There has been no confirmation as yet from either Sony or Unger-Hamilton, but informed sources say it’s going to happen, though both the name of the JV and the launch date are unknown.

Interesting to note that word of this scenario comes just weeks after Ashley Newton’s move from Sony Music to UMG's Steve Barnett-led Capitol.

Among the acts signed to Polydor during Unger-Hamilton’s nearly eight-year tenure are Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, Years & Years, The 1975, Frank Turner, James BlakeHAIM, Elbow and Cheryl.

A bit of background for you Yanks:

Iley and Unger-Hamilton know each other quite well indeed, having worked closely together for several years around the turn of the century.

Unger-Hamilton arrived at UMG in 1996 as Managing Director of the Polydor-affiliated Go Beat boutique label, where he worked with Portishead, before sliding over to Island in 2002, signing and A&Ring U.K. chart-toppers Keane. Unger-Hamilton was named the #1 A&R exec on the U.K. Top 40 A&R Chart of 2004. He jumped to EMI in 2006 as Managing Director of Virgin.  A year later, he was promoted to President of A&R Labels, Virgin, as part of EMI’s restructuring following the Terra Firma acquisition, but he wisely split soon afterward, returning to UMG in 2008 as President of Polydor.

In 1999, five years after beginning his career as a Sony Music U.K. product manager, Iley moved to Universal Music U.K., shifting from Polydor to Island in September 2000. As Island GM under MD Nick Gatfield, Iley played a key role in label’s resurgence, having success with acts including U2, PJ Harvey, Shaggy and the aforementioned Keane, while helping launch the career of Amy Winehouse. In May 2005, he was appointed MD of Mercury, leaving his gig at Island. Altogether, Unger-Hamilton and Iley spent five years working together, two at Polydor (’98-2000) and three at Island (2002-05).

Unger-Hamilton is known for his droll wit throughout the U.K. music business. Last fall, he gave HITS succinct but pointed responses to queries on timely topics. Tellingly, when asked about the fierce competition among the U.K. major labels, he quipped: “It’s irritatingly competitive, but competition is healthy, I'm told.”

If the latest rumour pans out, Unger-Hamilton will soon be gaining new perspective on this theory of healthy competition.

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