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Arista President 'L.A.' Reid Exits

Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who took the helm at Arista Records nearly four years ago and oversaw platinum successes from acts including OutKast, Pink and Avril Lavigne, has left the label, it was announced Tuesday.

Reid became president and CEO of Arista in May 2000 after the company’s founder and CEO, Clive Davis, left because of parent company BMG’s mandatory retirement policy.

Reid was not available to comment, according to an Arista spokeswoman.

Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, chairman and CEO of BMG, called Reid “one of the music industry’s top record men.”

“His passion for working with and developing some of the world’s best artists is unparalleled,” Schmidt-Holtz said in a statement Tuesday. “I sincerely wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors.”

Reid’s departure comes at a surprising time; OutKast has the top two songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and “Milkshake” from Kelis, another Arista artist, is No. 3. It also has the top-selling album in the country with OutKast’s “Speakerboxxx-The Love Below,” which earned six Grammy nominations last month, including album of the year.

The company has also had successes this year with albums from Sarah McLachlan and Dido. But the follow-up album from Pink, “Try This,” has sold poorly since its release in the fall; her last album, “M!ssundaztood,” sold more than 5 million copies.

Reid also re-signed Whitney Houston to a $100 million contract in 2001, despite rumors of drug use and erratic behavior about the singer, who’s the label’s best-selling artist. Houston’s subsequent album, “Just Whitney,” was the poorest-selling disc of her career.

Michael Smellie, BMG’s chief operating officer, will be in charge of Arista for now.

A spokesman for BMG, Nathaniel Brown, said the company’s recent announcement of a planned merger with Sony’s music division had nothing to do with Reid’s departure.

Reid first gained prominence in the early ’80s as a founding member of the R&B group The Deele, which featured then unknown Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Edmonds and Reid went on to build a successful production and songwriting partnership with hits for artists such as Houston, and later for the group’s own label, LaFace Records, whose artists included Toni Braxton, TLC and Usher.

Davis, whom Reid replaced, later founded J Records with backing from BMG and is now head of RCA Music Group.

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