Is Sylvia Rhone Leaving Universal?

Recent reports allege that the longtime Universal Motown President is being shown the door. THR investigates.

While there has been recent talk of a Sylvia Rhone exit from Universal Motown, the UMG-owned label she’s run since being named President in 2004, it may not be outside the company, says a source.

With a year left on her contract, Rhone, who’s long been considered one of the smartest female executives in the music business, is understandably weighing her options for the future. After all, there’s a new sheriff in town (UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, who officially took the reigns in March) and her longtime mentor (Doug Morris, UMG CEO until January of this year) is headed to rival corporation Sony Music in July, where he'll take over as chairman.

But with Morris bound to a strict “no poaching” agreement, it’s unlikely that Rhone will be able to jump ship and take over an urban-leaning label like Jive Records, previously headed by Barry Weiss, who came into UMG as Chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam and Universal Motown Republic last month. In fact, THR hears that current candidates for the high-level Sony positions, including heading up the RCA Jive label group, are all internal.

Keeping Rhone, who holds an impressive track record when it comes to breaking new artists (Nicki Minaj, Drake, Kid Cudi), orchestrating 360 deals and overall sales (Lil Wayne, Nelly), would make sense, but at what cost? One scenario being talked about is a Rhone-run entertainment company that would encompass management, recordings, merchandising, touring and endorsements, and would be financed in part or in whole by Universal -- like a mini RocNation. Digital Music News describes such a move as "a big demotion," but a Universal insider contends that “the idea that a company can provide a full-service menu to an artist appeals to Lucian, who is looking to expand creative investment.” The source adds that Rhone, Grainge and Weiss are scheduled to meet and discuss ideas next week.

A rep for UMG would not comment.