Motown Sings A Different Tune

Record label looks to former film executive George Jackson to revive luster

Does this sound familiar? Once dominant but now ailing music label hires high-profile name in attempt to revive fortunes. Flashback two years ago, and that would have been the news leads pegging off stories hailing Andre Harrell as Motown Records’ new savior. But after misfiring and failing to produce any bona fide hits during his brief tenure, Harrell was abruptly dismissed from the company. Now a new chief is in town, but the mission remains the same — restore Motown’s once-brilliant luster.

Motown appointed entertainment executive George Jackson as Its new president and CEO in an attempt to revive and reestablish the label as a major player in the competitive record market. In his day-to-day role, Jackson will oversee Motown’s music operations and says his immediate focus is to help the former heavy hitter become an Industry force once again. “What I have to do is run this business efficiently, creatively and passionately,” says Jackson, who began his tenure at Motown in November. Jackson says his first objective is to study Motown’s corporate structure and get together with the label’s key players. “I’ve always been inspired by the entrepreneurial brilliance of Berry Gordy, and I look at this as a challenge to reestablish Motown as an aggressive player.”

Neither Jackson nor company management would disclose the details of Jackson’s contract, other than to say it’s a long-term agreement. Motown Chairman Clarence Avant initially suggested Jackson for the job, and Mercury Records Group Chairman Danny Goldberg agreed, adding, “George has a combination of years of his experience running his own business, bringing in films on budget and making a payroll. His expertise in film is timely, in light of the enormous significance of visual imagery in the contemporary pop and R&B business. George will quickly emerge as one of the bright lights in the music business.”

Prior to joining Motown, Jackson was a partner in Elephant Walk Entertainment, a production and management company with film production, talent management, record label and music production divisions. Prior to that, Jackson partnered with Doug McHenry as chairman and co-founder of Jackson-McHenry Entertainment. Formed in 1985, the company’s successful projects included the films Krush Groove, New Jack City, House Party II & III and Jason’s Lyric. Jackson began his career in 1982 as a production assistant at Paramount Television.

PolyGram acquired Motown in August 1993 from Boston Ventures, which purchased the company from Gordy in 1988 in association with MCA Records. PolyGram’s record labels include A&M, Decca/London, Def Jam, Deutsche Grammophon, Island, London, Mercury, Polydor and Verve. Motown’s current roster includes Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Johnny Gill and Queen Latifah. But clearly the one golden egg in the Motown nest is multiplatinum act Boyz II Men, whose latest album, Evolution, debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. (One of Harrell’s early missteps was releasing a remix album of Boyz II Men — Boyz II Men: The Remix Collection — in 1995, against the group’s wishes.)

“I’ve known George for 15 years,” says Avant. “He’s always been ahead of the marketplace

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