Legendary record executive Clive Davis' public battle to keep his position as head of Arista Records ended Tuesday (May 2), when Arista's parent company, BMG Entertainment, announced that Davis will be replaced by LaFace Records co-founder Antonio "L.A." Reid.
Reid will take over Davis' positions as president and chief executive
officer of Arista on July 1, according to a statement from BMG. Davis,
67, founded the label, which boasts such artists as
COLOR="#003163">Santana, Patti Smith and Whitney Houston.
In a separate statement released through Arista, Davis said he
regretted BMG's decision, which he blamed on the company's enforcement of a mandatory retirement age, but that he is ready to move on by starting a new record label.
"I am fully prepared for and excited by the unique challenge of
creating an unprecedented instant major record company consisting
of the top executive and creative team in the business," he said. "We
will decide among the very substantial offers we've received to begin
business in September."
In a joint statement, Strauss Zelnick, BMG Entertainment's president,
and Michael Dornemann, its chairman, praised Davis, who founded
Arista in 1974 after serving as president of Columbia Records from
1967 to 1973.
"With Arista, Clive Davis has set a standard for achievement and
innovation in our industry. His unique combination of creative
intuition and business acumen has developed some of the greatest
musical acts of our generation," they said.
BMG's plans to replace Davis became public last year, sparking an
outcry from artists and industry figures.
Howie Klein, president of Reprise Records, blasted BMG's decision
Tuesday, calling Davis a "living legend."
"It never ceases to shock me when corporate entities think they're
serving the best interest of their business and their shareholders by
letting their own out-of-control egos get in the way of good business
decisions," Klein said. "This is a true tragedy for the artists, for
consumers and even for the owners of [Arista's parent corporation].
And I'm saying this as someone who truly respects and thinks highly
During his nearly 40-year music-business career, Davis has overseen the careers of some of the biggest names in rock and pop. He signed Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen and Smith and was executive producer of albums by R&B divas Houston, Monica and Aretha Franklin.
"I'm tremendously proud of what we've built at Arista over the 25
years since its inception," Davis said in his statement. "We've
attempted to launch major, unique stars with long-lasting careers who affect people all over the world, and we've done that."
Santana leader Carlos Santana has said Davis was instrumental in the success of last year's blockbuster, Grammy-sweeping album Supernatural, which includes the #1 single "Smooth" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Maria Maria" (RealAudio excerpt).
Reid founded LaFace Records in 1989 with his production partner, R&B singer/songwriter Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. The label's artists include chart-topping pop/R&B group TLC, rappers OutKast and singer Pink.
"To be given the honor and challenge to lead Arista, a label that is
home to such legendary talent and a rich legacy, is an extraordinary
opportunity," Reid said in a statement. "Having worked closely with
Arista during the past 11 years, I have experienced first hand the
incredible level of quality and excellence that Clive Davis has
LaFace, formerly a joint venture with Arista, will be fully consolidated into the parent company beginning in July, according to BMG's statement.
Edmonds will found a new record label as a joint venture with Arista,
according to BMG.
(Senior Writer Gil Kaufman contributed to this report.)
(This story was updated at 5:57 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 2, 2000,
with additional reporting.)