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Shake-up hits top brass at Warner Bros. Records

September 14, 2010 |  5:02 pm

L831l4nc After a nearly 10-year-run as a top Warner Music Group executive, Tom Whalley is leaving the company, handing over the reins as chairman to famed producer Rob Cavallo, the major label revealed Tuesday. Cavallo has served as WMG's chief creative officer since 2009, and will now head the Warner Bros. Records label group, which includes Warner, Asylum, Reprise, Nonesuch and Sire. 

Industry vet Whalley was a principal in the launch of Interscope Records -- credited with signing one of the label's biggest stars in Tupac Shakur -- and left as its president for Warner in 2001. His move to become chairman of Warner Bros. Records was a major one, as Whalley, who also served in the higher ranks of Capitol Records, was instrumental in helping to develop the careers of Bonnie Raitt and the Beastie Boys, among many others, and inked what was reported at the time as a $30-million contract with WMG

No reason was given for Whalley's departure in a statement released by WMG. 

He's leaving the label during what has been a well-documented transitional time for the industry. Warner reported in June that third quarter revenues were down 16% from the same period in 2009, and while digital sales have been an area of growth, it's not one that's moving at a rapid pace, although that's not exclusive to WMG. Digital single sales for 2010 are relatively flat compared with those of 2009, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while digital album sales grew about 13% for the first half of 2010.

Heading into this week, Warner's Reprise owned the No. 1 album on the U.S. pop chart, with Disturbed's "Asylum" having sold 179,000 copies. In Cavallo, Warner Bros. Records will be headed by one of the company's most successful producers in recent history. Cavallo worked with Green Day on the act's "American Idiot," which in 2004 returned the band to prominence and ultimately spawned a Broadway show. 

Cavallo has a long history with Warner Music, joining Warner Bros. Records as an executive in 1987. He signed such acts as Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day to the label. More recently, Cavallo signed Southern California rock act Switchfoot to a multi-platform "360" deal with Atlantic Records, and was credited with bringing the Dave Matthews Band to Warner Music in 2009 for distribution outside of North America.

“It is truly an honor to be named chairman of a company that I’ve grown up in, that has played such an important role in shaping my career and embodies what it means to be an artist-oriented organization," Cavallo was quoted in a statement. "The team at Warner Bros. has never lost sight of its core mission of serving artists and supporting the creative process."  

In announcing the promotion of Cavallo, the company also noted that Todd Moscowitz was named co-president/CEO of the label group, and Livia Tortella was named co-president and chief operating officer. 

Both are Warner vets. 

Moscowitz was named executive VP of Warner Bros. Records in 2009, and had overseen the company's urban-focused label in Asylum since 2004. Tortella has been a principal of Atlantic Records since 2004, serving as executive producer on the label's soundtrack to "Twilight," and was among those who teamed the major with indie Fueled By Ramen, home to Fall Out Boy and Paramore. 

Diarmuid Quinn, who has also been with WMG since 2001, is said to have resigned from his position as chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Records and president of Reprise Records. Quinn's departure is attributed to the new executive structure having altered management responsibilities, according to the WMG release. 

WMG continues to be overseen by Lyor Cohen, the company’s vice chairman and chairman and CEO, recorded music – Americas and the U.K.

Of the four major labels, WMG's market share -- the percentage of overall albums sold as tracked by Nielsen SoundScan -- stood at 15.5% for the first half of 2010. This placed the label third, ahead of EMI's 10.8% but well behind Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, both above 28%. The label finished 2009 with a market share of 20.55%. Some of the gap will be closed by a busy fourth-quarter release schedule. 

In a move unrelated to Tuesday's shift in leadership at Warner Bros. Records, WMG's reissue division Rhino Entertainment suffered another round of layoffs. About 20 staffers were let go in the cuts, which was first reported by Variety

"While it is difficult to reduce staff, we are pleased that a number of the affected employees will be staying on temporarily to assist with the transition," read a statement from Rhino."Even in the midst of significant industry change, some things remain the same as ever: our commitment to our core mission of creating the best, most informative, innovative and fun CD, vinyl, and digital music products through the talented and dedicated people on the Rhino team.”

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, a band signed to Warner Bros. by new Warner Music Group CEO Rob Cavallo. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times.