Friday, December 21, 2012

Rob Wiesenthal Out at Sony/ATV, Heading to Warner Music

Rob Wiesenthal, President of Sony/ATV's international business, is leaving the world's no.1 music publisher to join Len Blavatnik's Warner Music Group as chief operating officer/corporate, WMG said on Thursday.

Wiesenthal, a Sony Corp. veteran media-and-music dealmaker, will exit from 550 Madison Avenue by year-end and join Warner Music on Jan 1.

"In his short time with us as President of International, Rob helped us as we began our integration of EMI, and, like many of you, I have greatly appreciated Rob's contributions to our company and his valuable perspective," said Sony/ATV CEO Marty Bandier in an internal memo obtained by Billboard.

Wiesenthal is expected to handle media deals in a potential M&A and corporate development role, as the third-largest music company looks to bulk up with acquisitions in both recorded music and publishing in order to compete with the much larger rivals Universal Music Group and Sony.

He will report to CEO Stephen Cooper, as do music chiefs like Atlantic's Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman as well as Warner/Chappell's Cameron Strang.

In a statement, Cooper said, "There are few media and technology executives of Rob's stature and expertise. His commercial acumen, commitment to innovation and wide-ranging experience make him a suburb addition to our talented management team."

Russian-born billionaire Blavatnik, who paid $3.3 billion for WMG 18 months ago, has doubled down on music investments with a further $130 million venture investment in French music streaming start-up Deezer.

As a member of Sony Music Entertainment's board of directors, Wiesenthal was involved in many of the music major's biggest deals over the last decade, including the buyout of Bertelesmann from Sony BMG. He also engineered the acquisition of EMI Music Publishing by a Sony Corp. of America-led consortium.

Before moving to Sony/ATV, Wiesenthal had been chief financial officer for Sony Corp. of America for a dozen years. He moved to the publisher soon after the exit of Sony Corp CEO Howard Stringer led to a round of management changes at the company.

While Wiesenthal comes from a financial background having worked at First Boston, and had financial responsibilities overseeing Sony deals, sources say he has long coveted a senior position at a major music company and his immersed himself in the electronic dance music business.

His role is not being directly replaced by Sony/ATV. Instead Bandier has promoted one of his advisors, Guy Henderson, to the role of executive vice president International. He will oversee all territories excluding North America, South America and the UK.

This is an interesting move," a competitor of WMG and Sony says. WMG "brought in a very strategic guy connected to the financial markets who knows the music business very well."

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