[From Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Reid: Starting over with 'amazing rosters'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/13/04

At last Sunday's Grammy Awards, Antonio "L.A." Reid was in the curious position of being the unemployed record exec behind the label with the most nominations.

Or at least he was "officially" unemployed.

Turns out, hours after he left Arista Records on Jan. 13, he was in talks about a new job.

And on Tuesday, two days after Reid stood on stage with Atlanta rap duo OutKast as they won Grammy's top prize, album of the year, officials at Island Def Jam announced that Reid was their new chairman.
In his first in-depth interview since his departure in between selling his Atlanta home and picking up a son from school Reid talked about what led to his surprise resignation, his plans for Island Def Jam and the Atlanta artists he discovered, signed to LaFace Records, and is now leaving behind at Arista.

Q: Let's start with why you left Arista.

A: It was a mutual decision by me and the management of [Arista parent company BMG] that I step down. I realized that [my tenure] had run its course. I'd done all I could do in that situation. And I couldn't have stayed with the terms that were laid out to me.

Q: Obviously the phone started ringing pretty quickly afterward.

A: [Laughs]. Good news travels slow, and bad news travels really, really fast. Look, I'm a hardworking guy, and hopefully my work speaks for itself. . . . And when I became a free agent, I had options immediately.

Q: In all the news stories on your departure, the continuing theme was you were out because you lost a lot of money at Arista.

A: I choose to look forward toward my new responsibilities at Island Def Jam, not back at BMG or Arista. But let me say this: [BMG] is a privately held company, so any numbers that were put out there should be looked at with that in mind.

Q: The Whitney Houston deal [in which the troubled vocalist was reportedly paid $100 million] was pretty public. And that's what many articles pointed to as the big reason for Arista's supposed losses. Any regrets about giving her that deal?

A: No. I have no regrets about giving Whitney Houston that deal. Whitney Houston remains in my mind the crown jewel of Arista Records. If I regret anything about Whitney Houston, it's that we weren't able to have more success together.

Q: OK, on to your present job. Differentiate the responsibilities between a president and CEO of a label, and chairman.

A: Chairman is definitely a step up. . . . And in this particular role, Island Def Jam are two labels, and each of the presidents of those two labels report to me. I manage the operations of two companies and many joint ventures as opposed to one company and a few joint ventures.

Q: You sound really excited about this.

A: I have two amazing brands that have meant so much for so many years. One [Def Jam] is the largest, most successful hip-hop label, and I get to carry that torch forward and try to develop new artists that really sit with the brand. Island is a more rock-leaning and pop label same thing. Same goals. I'm going to work toward managing great people and great artists.

Q: At the same time, it's hard not to look back at your career and not think you may have been short-shrifted a bit. You and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds start a label in Atlanta and you find and establish future superstars like TLC, OutKast and Usher. That success at LaFace leads you to New York and Arista, where you continue to have success with the LaFace acts as well as Avril Lavigne and the like. Now you've left Arista, and Arista keeps the artists you established your credibility on. It's like you're starting all over.

A: First let me say, those artists, whether it's OutKast, Usher everybody must know I love all of them Pink, TLC, everybody. It's a very difficult thing emotionally to separate from these people, many of whom I've known since they were kids. I wish them the absolute best, and I will remain a friend to all of them. . . . I'm listening to the [upcoming] Usher album so I can give my opinion on final selections, and officially, he's not my artist anymore. But there's still that connection.

At the same time, if I have to walk away from my babies, there's no one I feel safer leaving them with than [BMG North American chairman] Clive Davis. If I was leaving Usher in the hands of an accountant, I'd worry. But in the hands of Clive Davis, there's an opportunity for him to continue to grow.

Finally, yeah, in a lot of ways I am starting all the way from scratch. But we're talking about Island Def Jam Ludacris, Jay-Z, Melissa Etheridge, Mariah Carey, Hoobastank, Sum 41. I'm walking into a couple of amazing companies here with amazing rosters. What I personally built, yes, that's gone. But that's exciting. My run with Arista and LaFace was like 15 years. It's good for me to be faced with new challenges. I've got a fresh slate and a blank canvas. I rather like this position I'm in.



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