Is Sylvia Rhone Headed to Sony to Restart Portrait Records?
In the latest round of major label exits, the former head of Universal Motown looks to be following her longtime boss and mentor, Doug Morris, straight to Sony.
First it was a game of Musical Chairs, now it's Follow the Leader.
The New York Post reported Thursday that former Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone is heading to Sony to restore the defunct Portrait label, where she would work closely with new Epic head L.A. Reid.
The move, which has been long expected in one form or another, would see new Sony Music Chairman/CEO Doug Morris reuniting Reid and Rhone, both of whom joined him at Universal in 2004 and left the company just months after his long-rumored departure from UMG was announced earlier this year.
A source tells THR that Rhone informed her former UMG bosses “24 hours earlier,” on Wednesday, that she was turning down an offer for her own multi-rights company that would encompass touring, merchandising and publishing, among other ancillary revenue streams. “Universal made an honest effort to keep her,” says an insider. “She was given a hell of an opportunity, but it looks like she wants to stick with the old [label] model.”
The Post reports that Reid and Rhone will be sharing staff, since Portrait would not be a full-service label with its own promotion department. One source reportedly said that, "She doesn't get along with L.A. at all. [Reid is] taking her reluctantly." THR’s UMG sources confirm that Reid’s adversarial relationship with Rhone was “notorious.”
While there has long been professional competition between the two, they were part of Morris' team at Universal for many years, and Morris has been known for stability -- many feel it is a major reason he was brought in to run Sony, which has been plagued by instability in recent years.
The Post reports that Cyndi Lauper will be signed to Portrait - the label was her home during her most commercially successful years in the mid-1980s. The label, launched in 1976 as an Epic subsidiary, underwent many image changes before it was shuttered in 2002: At various times over the years, its focus was new wave, jazz, and heavy metal. Its most successful artists were Lauper, Sade and Heart.
As for Universal Motown, THR has learned that Universal Music Publishing Group’s head of music, Ethiopia Habtemariam, is expected to take over creative reign at the label in mid-August, while also continuing on at UMPG.
A spokesperson for Sony declined to comment when contacted by Billboard.biz. A Universal rep would not comment to THR.