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Doug Morris becomes new CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, as expected

March 2, 2011 |  1:11 pm

Doug Morris

Doug Morris has been named the new chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment, an appointment that was widely anticipated when Morris last year said he would step down as head of Universal Music Group at the end of 2010.

Morris, 72, will succeed Rolf Schmidt-Holz July 1, and Schmidt-Holz will exit Sony at the end of the month, when his contract expires. In the interim, Sony Corp. Chairman Howard Stringer will helm the music company.

In an internecine, high-level corporate talent swap, a number of Sony executives are expected to move to Universal over the next few months, including Barry Weiss, the chairman of Sony's RCA/Jive Label Group, who is expected to head up Universal's operations in New York.

Morris, who had been CEO of Universal since 1995, presided over the company's 14-year reign as the world's largest music label. Universal was the No. 1 U.S. label in 2010, with a 31% share of the U.S. music market. Sony, whose roster of artists includes Bruce Springsteen, Susan Boyle and Kings of Leon, took the No. 2 spot with 28% of the market, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Sony, in a news release announcing Morris' appointment, touted his digital credentials, crediting him with launching the online music video site VEVO as a joint venture with Sony in December 2009. Since then, VEVO has become the largest online destination for music videos, with 60 million monthly unique visitors, and the third-largest overall online video property after YouTube and Facebook, according to ComScore.

Morris began his music career as a songwriter and music producer in 1965 after graduating from Columbia University. He sold his first record label, Big Tree Records, in 1978 to Atlantic Records. Two years later, he was named CEO of Atlantic.

Morris heads to Sony as the company's music revenue erodes. In the quarter ended Dec. 31, Sony Music sales were $1.7 billion, down 14.5% from a year earlier. The unit's operating profits slumped 15.7% to $241 million in the quarter. Sony blamed the decline on deteriorating CD sales.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Doug Morris in 2002 with a copy of a Bert Burns tribute album in his jacket pocket. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times