The Greatest Contract Of All: 3...

Whitney Houston signs $100 million deal! 
'Arista queen' Houston re-ups in $100 mil deal
By Chris Marlowe

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- Whitney Houston has signed a new exclusive long-term recording agreement with Arista Records, label president and CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid said Thursday.

The deal is valued at more than $100 million, with $25 million of it paid upfront. Exact details are difficult to ascertain because the deal Houston had with Arista before Thursday's signing still has her committed to at least six albums of new material plus two compilation albums.

"It's a combination of things," Reid said of the deal. "First off, Whitney Houston is the queen of Arista Records. She really has earned this deal. But this wasn't an exchange of money for guaranteed anything."

Asked why he would sign a new contract while the last one was still valid, Reid said, "Because she deserved it. I want her to feel very inspired, very committed and very happy to remain in her home."

Despite Houston's long relationship with Arista, there had been some question as to whether she would stay with the label or join her mentor Clive Davis at his new label, J Records. Reid took control of Arista from Davis in a very public and prolonged power struggle slightly in May 2000. Davis, then 67, had been ousted after Arista's parent company, Bertelsmann AG (news - web sites), opted to enforce its mandate to retire top executives by age 60 amid strong disagreements over the corporate heir to the label Davis had run for 25 years.

Reid strongly denied that there had ever been any doubt about Houston staying with the label.

"There has never, ever been a question of her leaving Arista," he said. "The day it was announced that I would even potentially be coming in, Whitney Houston was the first Arista artist to reach out to me and be supportive. Even when the gossipmongers were saying the label was doomed, there was never any discussions of her leaving. Not between myself and her, or her lawyers, or her representatives or her husband or anyone."

The deal is the largest that Arista has entered into, but Reid said there is no doubt in his mind that Houston is worth it. "We're happy," he said. "We're very, very happy. It's a wonderful feeling."

Reid added that the deal also was better for Houston in many respects other than the purely financial, but he declined to elaborate. He also declined to compare Houston's deal with those signed by such other female stars as Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson.

"It's competitive with the best deals out there for recording artists of her caliber," was all Reid would say on the subject. "And for us, it's a renewed commitment from an artist that is the voice of her time."

Houston has been a hugely successful artist since shortly after she initially joined Arista in 1983. Her second album, "Whitney," made her the first female artist to enter the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 1 when it was released in 1987.

Her most recent album, "Whitney: The Greatest Hits," was released just as Davis was being removed from Arista. The 36-track retrospective also included three newly recorded duet singles that paired Houston with Enrique Iglesias on "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" and with Deborah Cox and George Michael on two less successful tracks.

Including the best-of package, Houston is the only artist able to claim eight consecutive multiplatinum albums. She also has won six Grammy Awards, 21 American Music Awards, 15 Billboard Music Awards, 11 NAACP Image Awards and numerous other recognitions of her work.

Besides her music renown, 1992's "The Bodyguard" brought Houston to movie-star status. It also featured a soundtrack that sold 37 million units, making it the biggest-selling motion picture soundtrack album of all time and which included the massively successful single "I Will Always Love You."

Houston's film career has continued with 1995's "Waiting to Exhale" and 1996's "The Preacher's Wife."

Other hit singles include "Saving All My Love for You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and "It's Not Right But It's Okay."

Reid said he and Houston were beginning work on her new album immediately but had no time frame for its completion. "We're having creative discussions about the direction of the record now," he said. "We're going to work on the record for as long as it takes to make it wonderful, so I'm not going to schedule it and put that kind of pressure on Whitney."



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