Sony Music's anticipated promotion of Columbia Records Group Chairman Don Ienner to a newly created post as chief of its U.S. operations is the top line in an executive shake-up that insiders are calling the most extensive since 1988, when Sony Corp. entered the music business with its $2-billion purchase of CBS Records.
The shift also means the exit of some longtime Sony managers, including David Glew, who will retire from his post as chairman of Epic Records Group. Mel Ilberman, the company's veteran finance executive, also is retiring.
A number of executives will be reassigned or find themselves reporting to new bosses at the music operation, which is the world's second-largest after Vivendi Universal. Sony Music has been in a tie this year with Bertelsmann Music Group for second place in U.S. market share of new-release sales, with 16%.
Key players in the new Sony lineup include:
* Michele Anthony. The Sony veteran, who joined Thomas D. Mottola's management team over a decade ago, remains in place as executive vice president of the worldwide music group and becomes a principal aide to new chief Andrew Lack, who has no record industry experience. A former Los Angeles attorney, Anthony represented such acts as Guns N' Roses and Alice in Chains before joining Sony. Widely admired for her day-to-day management skills and generally good artist relations, she will play a key role as a dealmaker and in shaping the corporation's legal and political strategies to deal with online piracy and other issues.
* Don Ienner. Now in charge of a newly formed U.S. unit, Ienner transformed the once-stodgy Columbia into a muscular hit-making machine over the last 10 years. Home to such acts as the Offspring and the Dixie Chicks, Columbia has been the top-selling record label in America for five years running, fending off such consolidated rivals as Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M; and Island Def Jam. The tenacious Ienner was tapped by former boss Mottola for the Columbia job after sharpening his management skills under Clive Davis at Arista Records.
* Will Botwin. Installed as Columbia's president barely a year ago, Botwin becomes head of the label with Ienner's ascent. He was recruited by Ienner in 1996, just as he was preparing to take a post at rival Universal. As president, he has overseen the label's marketing and artist and repertoire divisions, working with such acts as Train and Marc Anthony. For 15 years before joining Sony, Botwin ran Side One Management, representing artist clients such as Lyle Lovett and Liz Phair.
* Polly Anthony. With Glew's retirement, Epic Records Group President Anthony takes charge of the label. After starting at Sony as a secretary, Anthony worked her way up through Epic's radio promotion department and became head of Sony's 550 label in 1994, adding Epic to her responsibilities three years later. The label has been on a hot streak lately with acts such as Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Audioslave. Insiders speculate that other executives may be in line for expanded duties as the music group's restructuring unfolds.
* Charlie Walk. Although remaining in his post as executive vice president of promotion at Columbia, Walk, a key Ienner lieutenant, is expected to take on broader responsibilities in the new U.S. management team, including supervision of all promotion. Walk has been with the operation for 15 years, having started his career with Sony Music's predecessor, CBS. He is considered a shrewd forecaster of hit tunes and was instrumental in the recent success of Columbia stars such as John Mayer, Aerosmith and System of a Down.