As Seagram Co. agreed to acquire PolyGram, PolyGram Chief Executive Alain Levy's fate remains a question--one that Seagram President and Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. declined to address head-on at a news conference Thursday.
"We're not going to comment on any individual [executive], no matter how senior or how impressive," Bronfman said when asked what Levy's role in the combined firm would be.
Bronfman said that managements at PolyGram and Seagram's Universal Music Group had yet to "sit down and figure out how to meld" operations, but he clearly indicated a likelihood that not all top executives would survive a merger. "Our hope is that we're going to be able to bring . . . the best of both organizations together," said Bronfman, who estimated that Seagram would be able to realize $275 million to $300 million in cost savings by integrating the firms' music operations.
Any time two such companies join forces, questions arise over who may step down. In this case, sources say, that person is most likely to be Levy. Though he has built PolyGram into a $5.5-billion powerhouse and possesses strong international experience that might benefit Seagram's North America-focused Universal Music Group, Levy is known for wanting to run his own show. Indeed, many say his aggressive, hands-on style has resulted in his losing respected label executives such as A&M's Jerry Moss and Island's Chris Blackwell.
Universal Music Group Chairman Doug Morris is said to have Bronfman's full support, however. Morris, whom Bronfman hired after the executive was fired in a management shake-up at Warner Bros. three years ago, has made a number of successful moves at Universal. These include installing new management and investing in the lucrative but controversial Interscope Records.
For the moment, at least, Levy is still on board. He joined Bronfman, Universal Studios Chairman and Chief Executive Frank Biondi Jr. and Cornelis Boonstra, CEO of PolyGram parent Royal Philips Electronics, in the pre-news-conference photo op, smiling for the cameras along with the rest of the executives--though it seemed the Seagram representative coordinating the event included Levy in the lineup as an afterthought.