Quantcast

THE SAME OLD SONG, PART THREE

I.B. BAD TELLS THE STORY OF CBS RECORDS/SONY MUSIC

TOMMY MOTTOLA: THE “FUHGEDDABOUDIT” YEARS

Shortly after Mottola came in, he made a game-changing move by hiring a pair of execs steeped in indie culture—Don Ienner from Arista and Dave Glew from Atlantic—as presidents of Columbia and Epic, respectively, and doubling their previous salaries. Not surprisingly, Grubman was the attorney for both. This bold maneuver set a new pay-scale bar for promotion and marketing executives, who instantly became high-priced talent.

By the late ’80s, insiders believed the power-hungry Yetnikoff was losing it. He suffered from a disease prevalent among ego-driven, substance-abusing executives, as everything became about him rather than about the music. He picked fights with other heavyweights for no apparent reason, including a dust-up with kingmaker/slayer Geffen, who by that time had become one of the most powerful individuals in the entertainment business, and whose reach was enormous, extending from music to film and Broadway. In retaliation, Geffen staged a commando raid on Yetnikoff’s own turf, persuading Michael Jackson, Sony’s biggest artist, to hire Grubman—who was also Geffen’s lawyer—and Sandy Gallin for management. That was just foreplay. Agreeing that Walter had gone off the rails, a loose-knit alliance of Geffen, Grubman, Mottola, Springsteen manager Jon Landau and Azoff staged a palace coup. Yetnikoff resigned in September 1990, a month after Mottola was honored at the annual City of Hope dinner on the Sony lot—and many attendees knew Walter was about toast—a flashback to the TJ Martell dinner two years earlier, when Teller was being thrown under the bus. He was out just after being given a new three-year deal, which amounted to a $25m going-away present. Azoff celebrated the ouster by making up bumper stickers that read, “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead.”

Sony Music returned to dominance in the ’90s, in part because WMG was falling apart by ’95 and UMG wouldn’t be fully realized until the 1996 arrival of Doug Morris and the 1998 acquisition of PolyGram. Under Mottola, Sony was firing on all cylinders, churning out hits from Jackson, Celine Dion, Pearl Jam, Gloria Estefan, The Fugees, Rage Against the Machine, Ricky Martin, Michael Bolton, Will Smith and newcomers Destiny’s Child, as well as the massive Titanic and Forrest Gump soundtracks. But the most important star in Mottola’s firmament was Mariah Carey, who married him during her meteoric rise in one of the most opulent Fifth Ave. weddings of all time. That meant Mottola was Carey’s label head, husband, de facto manager and publisher—and he made sure she was earning tens of millions of dollars as she was racking up her string of smashes.

Meanwhile, on the corporate front, Schulhof, who had transformed Sony’s U.S. operations into a global entertainment company, resigned in 1997 following a prolonged box-office drought; he was succeeded by British-born exec Howard Stringer— Sir Howard Stringer after he was knighted in 1999.

Mottola’s inner circle comprised Ienner, Glew, Mel Ilberman and Michele Anthony, newly arrived from Manatt, Phelps, et al, in L.A. initially as EVP. They worked alongside the Epic crew: Chairman Glew, President Richard Griffiths and Polly Anthony, a promo exec who had come up through the ranks; she replaced Griffiths as Epic Group president in 1998. The 55th Street Gang, as they were known, was an aggressive group with a take-no-prisoners attitude, as competitive with each other as they were with their rivals at the other majors—and at times an HR nightmare. Their success inspired them to become even more 
aggressive, and the money was getting mind-boggling, with reports that Mottola was making $20m+ a year, while Ienner and Glew were pulling in $10m+ apiece. True to his nature, Ienner, blew through promotion execs as if they were Kleenex—among those who passed through were Burt Baumgartner, Marc Benesch, Bruce Tyler, Jerry Blair, Charlie Walk, Kid Leo, Lisa Ellis and Lee Leipsner.

But amid great prosperity, Mottola was sowing the seeds of his own demise. He lived in baronial splendor, sequestering himself behind his velvet rope, John Gotti-like; impeccably dressed, he split his time between his lavish quarters in Manhattan and his estates in Upstate New York and Miami. Mottola believed he was untouchable, so much so that he thought he could get away with disrespecting his superiors, including Sir Howard Stringer, repeatedly blowing off the obligatory annual trips to Japan. In the end, Mottola was undone by the combination of his inflated ego, his inability to manage upward and the negative fallout from the Mariah Carey divorce, forcing Stringer to fire him in 2003.

...Read the story so far

REPUBLIC UPS GOLDSTEIN, ROPPO TO CO-PRESIDENTS
Team Lipman doubles up. (11/26a)
CHART FINAL:
THE BIGGEST BOW
OF THE YEAR
Big numbers for "30." (11/29a)
COUNTRY GRAMMYS' ROOTS ARE SHOWING
Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
THE BRITISH
ARE COMING
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
PUTTING THE POP
IN POPCORN
Putting the audio into audio-visual. (11/29a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)