The New King Of Pop

For the past five months, Antonio "L.A." Reid has held court as the head of Arista Records. See how he came to power and how he intends to preserve his throne.

by building on the company’s tradition of strategic partnerships. He began by inking a deal with Flyte Tyme, run by Jam and Lewis.

Jam and Lewis entered into an exclusive, three-year joint venture with Arista in August. Under terms of the agreement, Arista will take over all marketing, promotion, sales, and distribution responsibilities for Flyte Tyme artists, and Jam and Lewis will produce artists for Arista and its other labels.

Even if you are the No. 1 music man, you can’t make deals by yourself, says Avant. “You have to surround yourself with the right folks.” Taking Avant’s advice, Reid quickly began surrounding himself with people who can help him grow the business and that have an allegiance to him.

Just a few days after taking the helm at Arista, Reid, who reports directly to Zelnick, began changing his lineup. On July 10, he named former Palm Entertainment COO Larry Mestel as executive vice president-general manager, replacing the previous GM, who quit upon Davis’ departure. Former Columbia Records senior vice president Jerry Blair was named executive vice president in charge of non-urban promotion and marketing, while Arista veteran Lionel Ridenour remained as executive vice president, overseeing urban promotion and marketing.

From LaFace, Reid named Dorsey James senior vice president of Arista Ventures, and Mark Shimmel senior vice president of artist relations. Other appointments include executives from BMG’s corporate offices: Matt Flott will be vice president of finance, and Steve Grawley will be vice president of business and legal affairs.

Reid says his new staff allows him to run the company and still focus on his A&R strengths. He maintains that he was not brought to Arista just to manage the business. “My role is to find stars and make hits,” he says. He says he will do whatever it takes to cut costs and help Arista run more efficiently, but that ultimately the top line is through hits. “My job is to identify stars, find hits, and forge relationships with creative people. That’s the only reason why I’m here. I’d never have a corporate job. I know how to build a business, and I know how to count, but what I do is music.”

FAST FORWARD
Reid has come a long way from playing in local bands in his hometown, Cincinnati. But he’s still not sure if he’s made it. “I’m not sure if I’m at the pinnacle of my career, or if I’m starting a whole new career altogether,” says Reid. “I’m building from scratch, and I really have my work cut out for me.”

He cites the expansion of Arista’s artist roster as among the biggest challenges ahead of him. With the exception of Arista’s all-time greats, such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Carlos Santana, Reid says Arista’s lineup was in need of a strong shot of star power.

In 1999, Arista’s gross revenues were approximately $525 million, says Laura Swanson, spokesperson at Arista. Santana-who was re-signed by Davis in 1999 and represents the former CEO’s last great contribution to the label-accounted for $23 million

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