Berry plucked as Levy prunes EMI tree

By | October 25, 2001 at 12:00 AM

In a move seen as almost inevitable by many in the music business, Nancy Berry has resigned as vice chairman of Virgin Records Group. The move comes just days after her estranged husband Ken Berry was replaced at the helm of Virgin parent EMI Recorded Music by ex-Polygram chief Alain Levy.

Nancy Berry’s departure marks Levy’s first visible action to reshape EMI’s embattled U.S. label divisions, which have given up substantial market share over the past few years; EMI is currently in last place among the big five record congloms.

Nancy Berry, who has been with Virgin’s U.S. operations for more than two decades since signing on as Ken Berry’s assistant at age 19, came under fire in recent months over the $80 million signing of Mariah Carey, whose short career at Virgin has been plagued by repeated mental breakdowns and anemic record sales.

Berry also drew criticism after Virgin’s loss of hot new rock act Custom, who had been the subject of a seven-figure bidding war. Custom was reportedly allowed to leave the label – and keep his record, which cost Virgin $750,000 to make – after he accused Berry of harassing him. The rocker later signed a deal with Ted Field’s ArtistDirect Records.

But Berry has also had a hand in many of Virgin’s recent successes, including multiplatinum records by Lenny Kravitz and Janet Jackson. Berry had said that she intended to stay on board to oversee the marketing of Kravitz’s latest project, “Lenny,” slated for release Tuesday.

Berry will not be replaced; her duties will be split among remaining Virgin execs. The status of Virgin co-presidents Ray Cooper and Ashley Newton is uncertain, though insiders said the two were likely to remain in their posts for the foreseeable future.

Separately, EMI’s Capitol Records label has tapped industry vets Mark DiDia and Larry Jacobson as senior vice presidents. The two will team up to oversee the day-to-day operations of the label under president and CEO Andy Slater.

DiDia and Jacobson will work with Slater, who was himself appointed by Ken Berry last May, to develop Capitol’s long-term strategy, which includes beefing up the label’s thin roster of new and rising star talent.

Both execs have impressive pedigrees, including top management posts at several labels. DiDia was most recently general manager of the Disney-owned imprint Hollywood Records. Prior to that, he held the GM post at Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, and also worked in the national promotion department of Geffen Records.

Jacobson comes to Capitol from the G.M. spot at Warner Music division Giant Records, where his work included the Grammy-winning Steely Dan LP “Two Against Nature,” as well as “The Sickness,” the hit debut from metal act Disturbed.

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