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Mottola Gets Back in the Act

The former music exec, who stepped down as head honcho at Sony Music in January, has teamed up with Universal Music Group to head up a modern-day version of a retro record label.

The mastermind behind the careers of Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez will run Casablanca Records, a label founded by Neil Bogart that had its heyday in 1970s with acts like KISS, Donna Summer and the Village People.

According to UMG execs, a five-year contract was inked Monday (reportedly to the tune of $50 million), and Mottola is ready to start producing for the New York-based label.

“My goal is to have probably at least two records out before September,” Mottola told Reuters, adding that he had signed a few acts that will be announced in the coming weeks. Up to six albums could be released within a year.

Mottola says he is opting not to focus on a single genre of music for the label. Its parent company, Vivendi Universal, is home to a variety of other multidimensional labels, including Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Island Def Jam Music Group and Motown Records, and Mottola says he is excited about the new partnership.

“I have looked closely at the many opportunities which have been offered to me over the last several months, but none have had the right combination of elements to attract me like the one from Universal,” he said in a statement.

Even Sony is offering its well wishes to its former exec, despite Mottola initially saying he planned to launch a new venture for his old company when he stepped down.

“Tommy Mottola is a legendary figure in the music industry with an extraordinary track record,” Andrew Lack, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, said in a statement. “I know I speak for everyone at Sony Music when I wish him every success.”

If his track record is any indication, Mottola won’t be needing much luck to get Casablanca off the ground. The 52-year-old music mogul has been in the biz for years, starting off as the manager of Hall & Oates, Carly Simon and John Mellencamp, then becoming president of Sony Music (then CBS Records) in 1988.

At Sony, he took over a talent roster that included Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen and brought in a slew of new talent to the label, including his eventual wife Carey (they later divorced and he has since remarried Latin artist Thalia). Among his most prestigious launches were Dion, Lopez, Destiny’s Child, Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, Shakira, Nas, Xzibit, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, John Mayer, Korn and Train.

With such a prestigious background, many record biz insiders are wondering how Mottola will handle the transition from top dog to running a single label. But Mottola says it won’t be a problem: “I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

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