L.A. Reid & Arista...

L.A. Reid Selects Arista VP Team (Billboard - July 29, 2000)


LOS ANGELES-With his executive team in place, new Arista president/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid says his staff's first order of business is to "take care of the records we already have in play-the carry-over from Clive Davis-and make sure those records don't fall through the cracks."

On July 17 Reid formally announced his upper-level staff, putting to rest weeks of rumors about who would assist him in helming the re-jiggered label. Reid, co-founder of Arista-distributed LaFace Records, took over the label July 1 from Arista founder Davis, who is expected to announce his new label deal with Arista parent BMG shortly. As part of the deal, LaFace is now a wholly owned BMG label and has been incorporated into Arista, although the logo will still be used for existing LaFace artists.

Instead of having one second-in-command, Reid has named three executive VPs, all of whom report directly to him and are based in New York.  As was announced July 10, former Palm Entertainment COO Larry Mestel has been named executive VP/GM. In his new position, Mestel will oversee business affairs, international, finance, production, special markets, administration, sales (noncreative), and the West Coast operation.

Former Columbia senior VP Jerry Blair has been named executive VP, overseeing non-urban promotion and marketing. Longtime Arista vet Lionel Ridenour retains his title as executive VP of black music, overseeing urban promotion and marketing.

Under that ring is a tier of senior VPs, whom Reid says will report directly to him; however, some of them will also have a dotted-line report to an executive VP.

Among them are senior VP of promotion Steve Bartels, who was Arista's senior VP of special projects, and former LaFace execs Mark Shimmel, now senior VP of artist relations, and Dorsey James, now senior VP of Arista Ventures. Recruited from BMG corporate's offices are Matt Flott, senior VP of finance and administration, and Steve Gawley, senior VP of business and legal affairs.  The presence of Flott and Gawley indicates that Reid will work more closely with BMG Entertainment president/CEO Strauss Zelnick than did his predecessor.

"I do intend to work very closely with Strauss," says Reid. "I think he has proven he's a brilliant man, and I welcome the input, but that's not why these guys are here. They weren't placed at Arista. I was doing business with them and took a liking to them."

When putting together his staff, Reid says, he sought people "who really wanted to be part of this team. I didn't want to spend my time convincing people they should be here. I wanted people who were passionate about our artists and people who had the killer instinct to win."

Reid says he is on the verge of signing some new acts in both the rock and  Latin areas-two genres in which he has stressed he would like to see Arista grow (Billboard, May 13). He declined to name the artists. 

Reid says that he is also reviewing Arista's current artist roster and that he does expect some changes to be made. "I'm going through it pretty extensively," he says. "I'm feeling pretty good about a couple of things that are here. The consolidation with the LaFace acts has strengthened the roster a lot."

He declined to address rumors that Davis will take a number of acts such as LFO or Deborah Cox with him to his new BMG-distributed label. "I can't speak about any acts going to Clive. I've [been] very supportive of Clive, and I hope he will be supportive of me." As BMG and Arista had always insisted, superstar artists groomed by Davis, such as Whitney Houston and Carlos Santana, are staying on Arista.

He stresses that he is also open to pursuing more joint-venture deals, such as the ones Arista already has with Puff Daddy's Bad Boy label, Matt Serletic's Melisma, and Jim Guerinot's Time Bomb. However, he declined to comment on whether he is pursuing a new joint venture with former Work co-founder Jeff Ayeroff and Outpost co-founder Mark Williams. "The official answer is no comment," he says.

Reid says his new staff allows him to run the company but still focus on his A&R strengths. "I didn't come here to manage the business," he says. "I had a conversation with [DreamWorks principal] Lenny Waronker, I ran into him one night, and he said, "Understand something about your job. You're going to think it's to manage the business. Your job is to find stars and make hits.'

There are a lot more people who are more capable who can manage the business better than I can. My role is to find stars and make hits." 

Despite indications that Reid intended to move Arista out of its space at 6 West 57th St. in New York, Reid says that he intends to keep the label where it is for now. "I tell you, I'm not concerned about moving. I'm concerned about winning."



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