Layoffs Hit Universal Motown

Twenty staffers are let go, mostly from back office functions in legal, finance and digital, five are promoted, and Sylvia Rhone is said to be in negotiations for her own UMG-housed entertainment company.

As expected, the hatchet came down at Universal Motown this morning, but the label that's home to Erykah Badu, Akon and Nelly is still alive, despite tweets to the contrary. According to a source, some 20 staffers were let go, mostly from back office positions in the legal, finance and digital departments from Universal Motown, Universal Republic and Island Def Jam. A&R administration was also hit along with publicity, which sees svp Margeaux Rawson exit the building.  

At the same time, Barry Weiss, Chairman and CEO of the Universal Motown Republic Group (UMRG) and Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJMG), announced a handful of promotions at the companies. Among them: Steve Gawley has been named evp of business and legal Affairs for UMRG & IDJMG. George Marolda is promoted to Chief Financial Officer of UMRG & IDJMG. Both report to Weiss. Reporting to Monte Lipman (president and CEO of Universal Republic) and Steve Bartels (president & COO of Island Def Jam) is new svp of International Matt VossJon Vanhala, svp of digital, brand integration and new business for UMRG & IDJMG, will answer to Lipman. Meredeth Oliver is named vp of A&R Administration, reporting to Gawley.

Said Weiss in a statement: “In an effort to better serve our artists and business partners, UMRG and IDJMG are reallocating resources to achieve greater efficiencies. While this will unfortunately result in some redundancy, it will allow for increased expenditures on the creative front across our labels, with particular plans to double our A&R investment at Universal Motown. Moreover, by centralizing these select functions, our artists and business partners will also benefit from a more concentrated and streamlined approach in the areas of legal, finance, international and digital. This will allow us to operate with much more flexibility and speed; two qualities necessary for our continued growth in this challenging marketplace.”  

The question of Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone still remains unanswered, but a source tells THR she's currently in talks to remain at UMG. On the table: Rhone's own east coast-based multi-rights entertainment company that would allow her to handle a small stable of artists and be involved in everything from recordings to publishing, touring, merchandise and possibly management. While the papers have yet to be signed, Rhone is said to be "aggressively negotiating" the project, which she pitched to UMG.