Columbia Records' Mark DiDia exits

Insiders questioning Rick Rubin's tenure

NEW YORK -- Columbia Records GM Mark DiDia suddenly left the label Thursday, and insiders are questioning whether Rick Rubin's role at the company is changing.

DiDia was brought in by Rubin shortly after the latter was named co-chairman of Columbia in early 2007, sharing that office with Steve Barnett. The three formed a management triumvirate, with DiDia functioning as the GM at the label, which did away with titles under the Rubin regime.

DiDia's sudden departure has Sony BMG insiders questioning Rubin's tenure, with some suggesting that he will no longer have a role at Columbia. But others insist he remains under contract and will stay in the fold, via his American Recordings label deal.

Since joining Columbia, the main feather in Rubin's cap has been his
production of Neil Diamond's "Home Before Dark," which gave the latter his first No. 1 debut on The Billboard 200 this spring. But he was already functioning in the producer role for Diamond before joining the company, having worked on 2005's acclaimed "12 Songs."

Otherwise, his signings have included the Avett Brothers, the Gossip, whose lone release has been a live album, and former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson, whose album "Free Life" has sold 17,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Rubin also brought ZZ Top and Crosby, Stills & Nash into the Columbia fold, but neither act has released music for the company yet. In addition, he produced a hit album for another label: Metallica's "Death Magnetic" has sold 1.44 million copies for Warner Bros. since its June release.

Columbia's major new artist breakthrough of late has been British singer Adele, who is nominated for four awards at the 2009 Grammys, including best new artist.

Columbia executives didn't respond to requests for comment.