TodayInMusic: Sony Music may have no CEO in a few weeks

BeyoncePerformsSony Corp still hasn’t confirmed to insiders who will replace outgoing Sony Music CEO Rolf Schmidt Holtz, whose contract ends on March 31st. Stories (including ours) have been doing the rounds for at least 3 months now that Schmidt Holtz will be replaced by current Universal Music Group chairman Doug Morris but, perhaps unsurprisingly, that move is proving complicated.

Sources say Morris has to give a year’s notice, which would take him to Jan 1 2012 at the earliest. The problem is Schmidt Holtz has made clear to his Sony Corp he has no intention of extending his contract as he’s ready to retire, move back home to Hamburg and concentrate on his various investments like TeVeo.

If Sony and Universal can hash out some agreement on Morris’ contract, he may be able to start as early as July 1, insiders said.  But that would still mean that the good ship Sony Music might be without a captain for three months, not a great thing in an industry where uncertainty reigns.

One option for Sony might be to put Sony USA CFO Rob Wiesenthal in charge  temporarily until Morris can come on board.

(Photo: Reuters, picture of Sony Music artist Beyonce)

TodayInMusic: Warner goes up, up, up on news of race to sell…

Michael Stipe of R.E.M. performs on stage in Riga REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA)

Michael Stipe of R.E.M. performs on stage in Riga REUTERS/Ints Kalnins (LATVIA)

Just 48 hours ago we pointed out how Warner Music Group shares had dropped some 11 percent as investors panicked over the extent of the downturn in the business’s fundamentals which were worse-than-expected in the all important Holiday quarter and management gave a gloomy prognosis.  But this is big finance where focusing on fundamentals is for suckers…things turn around pretty quickly and Warner Music is back up.

The World’s No.3 music company crept back up just over 1 percent yesterday as some investors returned and today they’ve returned in their droves and pushed the shares up some 11 percent. Why? Well, they’re likely back because a story in the New York Post rolls out a list of names including many we knew/expected to be among 20 bidders for all or parts of Warner Music, home of acts like R.E.M and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Post makes the point, as we did earlier this month, that any hopes for a Warner Music sale kind of depend on what happens with EMI Music which was recently taken over Citigroup.  The Post says Citi is ready for the London-based EMI sale sooner rather than later so a race is on.

TodayInMusic: Warner Music – going down, down, down…?

Edgar Bronfman (Photo: Reuters)

Edgar Bronfman (Photo: Reuters)

After posting weak quarterly sales on Tuesday Warner Music’s shares closed down another 1.4 percent on Wednesday meaning its shares have dropped some 11 percent since Monday. As if that wasn’t enough concern, the heavily leveraged No.3 music company was given a heads-up that its debt is about to be downgraded. Ratings agency Moody’s placed ratings for Warner Music Group’s BA3 debt on review for ”possible downgrade” which usually is as good as definite .

Warner Music Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman tried to put a positive spin on his company’s unimpressive quarterly performance, in an admittedly very tough environment for all music companies.  But even Bronfman, in a conference call with analysts, seemed slightly exasperated with the rate of decline and slowing digital growth, in a quarter which saw rivals grab market share from Warner Music:

“We think the business is extremely competitive all of the time, regardless of the overall environment, which is one of decline, currently. So, we battle for market share, but as I’ve always said, we also battle for margin share. So, we try very hard to be very focused on our margins. Having said that, we had a lot of releases in the December quarter and, by and large, they did not do as well as we expected them to do versus, obviously, other companies.

TodayInMusic: Live Nation snaps up rest of Front Line

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Lots of medium-sized developments at Live Nation Entertainment today. 

Firstly, the world’s largest concert promoter and leading ticketing company has taken full control of Front Line Management after spending $116.2 milion to buy the remaining stake it did not already own.

That stake was held by Live Nation’s executive chairman Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden. It means Azoff has an increased position in the company, as does MSG. Front Line was founded by Azoff and manages over 250 artists including The Eagles, Christina Aguilera and Neil Diamond.

Other important changes at Live Nation include interim non-executive chairman John Malone stepping down from the board. You might recall he became interim chair after fellow media mogul Barry Diller stepped down as chairman last fall after a boardroom power struggle.