A staff-wide memo from Sony Corporation president Sir Howard Stringer confirms what had been rumored for months: Universal Music Group chairman Doug Morris is heading to Sony Music as Chief Executive Officer. He replaces outgoing chairman Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who will depart the company at the end of his contract on March 31. Morris will start on July 1.
Said Stringer in an email to Sony staffers: “Doug Morris, one of the most talented, innovative and respected executives in the music industry, will join the Sony family on July 1 as Chief Executive Officer of Sony Music Entertainment. Doug is exceptionally qualified to lead our music company into the next phase of a challenging and rapidly changing industry, and I am delighted to welcome him to Sony.”
Of Schmidt-Holtz, Stringer writes, “I offer my sincere thanks to Rolf for his dedication to and leadership of the Company during a very difficult period.”
SONY NAMES DOUG MORRIS NEW HEAD OF SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
(New York, NY – March 2, 2011) — Doug Morris, one of the most respected and influential executives in the global music industry, will join Sony Music Entertainment as Chief Executive Officer, effective July 1, 2011. The announcement was made today by Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Sony Corporation.
Mr. Morris, who became Worldwide Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Music Group (UMG) in 1995, announced last year that he would step down from that role at the end of 2010. At Sony Music Entertainment (SME), he will succeed Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who will be departing the company concurrent with the end of his contract on March 31, 2011.
“I have known Doug Morris for many years, and am delighted that he has agreed to lead Sony Music Entertainment,” said Mr. Stringer. “At this critical time in the evolution of the music industry, I can think of no one more qualified as a proven executive, an innovator, a music impresario and a statesman than Doug Morris. I welcome him to the Company and look forward to our working together to drive Sony Music to preeminence in the industry.
“I also want to thank Rolf Schmidt-Holtz for his tremendous contribution to Sony Music,” Mr. Stringer continued. “From his time as Chairman of the Sony BMG Music Entertainment joint venture in 2004, through his operational role as CEO beginning in 2006, Rolf has been a courageous, candid and forward-thinking executive, and our entire Company has benefitted greatly from his leadership. We wish him great success as he undertakes new challenges upon his return to Europe.”
“I’m delighted by the opportunity to work with Howard and the entire Sony Music team,” commented Mr. Morris. “At such a pivotal time for music, it’s more important than ever to develop a fertile, creative environment that generates the highest quality of artists and music, while seeking to fully exploit the many opportunities that new digital services and products provide in reaching audiences around the world.”
For the next few months, prior to Mr. Morris’ joining Sony Music Entertainment, Mr. Stringer will oversee the executive decision-making at SME.
Mr. Schmidt-Holtz said, “Over the last 10 years as CEO of BMG, SONY BMG, and currently Sony Music, I have worked to build the value of music content across a wide variety of platforms. I am particularly proud to have developed the global television property as an important strategic element within all the companies I have led. This influential model has been widely adopted across the entire industry, and is a vital component of today’s music business. Most importantly, I am grateful to have worked with such a great team over the last decade, including some of the most talented and dedicated music executives in the industry. Together, we have kept a strong focus on building a profitable company with an entrepreneurial culture that attracts good people and always remembers that great artistry, creative talent and innovation are the driving forces of our success. Finally, I want to thank Howard Stringer for giving me the opportunity to lead Sony Music over these last few years. It has been an amazing experience and one I will never forget. I wish my colleagues and the new leadership all the best for the future. ”
As Worldwide Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group (UMG) from 1995 through 2010, Mr. Morris was responsible for guiding the overall global activities of the company. He oversaw the development, manufacturing, marketing, selling and distribution of its recorded music through a network of subsidiaries, joint ventures and licensees in 77 countries around the world, as well as its music publishing business, the largest in the world.
Under Mr. Morris’ direction, UMG led the industry in sales for an unprecedented 14 consecutive years. He rapidly grew the organization from a record company into a full-fledged music entertainment company with multiple new revenue streams.
Moreover, Mr. Morris became the first media executive to monetize online music videos, essentially helping to create the music video-on-demand market. He also created VEVO, a novel partnership with Sony Music and Google, which has quickly become the leading premium music video and entertainment network. Within its first month of launch, VEVO amassed an unprecedented 35 million unique visitors. A year later, the network currently ranks as the #1 online music destination with nearly 60 million unique visitors. ComScore ranks VEVO as the #3 online property–behind only YouTube and Facebook–and above such longer-standing services as Yahoo, Hulu, AOL, Netflix and MTV Networks Music.
After graduating from Columbia University, Mr. Morris began his music career as a songwriter for music publisher Robert Mellin, Inc. His credits include writing the Chiffons’ 1966 hit, “Sweet Talkin’ Guy,” and producing such hit records as Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Mr. Morris joined Laurie Records in 1965 as a writer and producer and was eventually named Vice President and General Manager. Later, he launched his own label, Big Tree Records, which was distributed and eventually acquired by Atlantic Records in 1978. At this time, Mr. Morris was named President of ATCO Records, beginning a 17-year association with Warner Music.
In 1980, he was appointed President of Atlantic Records and assumed the position of Co-Chairman and Co-CEO (with Ahmet Ertegun) of the Atlantic Recording Group in 1990. At Atlantic, Mr. Morris played a key role in transforming the label into the number one company in the business with over $1 billion in sales and, later, elevated Warner Music Group to the industry’s leading company in overall sales.
In 1995, Mr. Morris began his association with the MCA Music Entertainment Group (now Universal Music Group) by forming the joint venture, Rising Tide Entertainment. Upon his appointment as Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group in November 1995, the joint venture became wholly owned by Universal Music Group and was re-named Universal Records. The full-service label, under the direction of Mr. Morris, quickly became one of the industry’s most successful start-up recording companies.
Leading Universal Music Group, Mr. Morris energized the company by attracting and recruiting many of the music industry’s most talented executives and artists. With the acquisition of PolyGram in 1998, Mr. Morris played a pivotal role in the restructuring and integration process to create the world’s largest music company.
A staunch defender of artists’ rights, Mr. Morris has worked in many different capacities with some of the most popular and influential artists of the past four decades, including The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Pete Townsend, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler, Tori Amos, INXS, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder and U2, among many others. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that artists are fairly compensated for the use of their works in all mediums, and has testified before the United States Congress on their behalf.
Mr. Morris serves on the Board of Directors of The Robin Hood Foundation and The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and is a Director of The Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. He is also a recipient of the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), honoring his consistent creative commitment to artistic and entrepreneurial excellence and longstanding support for the music and world communities. Mr. Morris also serves on the Board of Directors of CBS Corporation. In 2008, he was honored with City of Hope’s Spirit of Life award and, in 2009, he received the NARAS Icon Award, as well as a star on the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.