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MCA Is Virtually Eliminated in Cutback

June 10, 2003|Jeff Leeds | Times Staff Writer

The Grim Reaper finally paid a visit to Vivendi Universal's MCA Records, often derided as the "Music Cemetery of America."

Universal Music executives began a long-rumored reorganization of the Santa Monica-based label, issuing pink slips to 50 to 100 employees and preparing to slash acts from its roster, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Moreover, Universal plans to cease nearly all use of the MCA name and fold the bulk of the remaining workforce into the Geffen label, which is part of Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M division and home to such acts as Counting Crows and Cold.

Universal plans to place the remains of MCA under the direction of Geffen Records President Jordan Schur, sources said. Schur will continue to report to Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine.

Sources said the Geffen team already has been focusing on key upcoming releases that originated within MCA, including a Mary J. Blige album slated for release in August.

The restructuring had been expected since the exit of MCA chief Jay Boberg, who resigned under pressure five months ago. Among the executives who left the label Monday are Chief Financial Officer Paul Satenstein and Vice President of Sales Mike Regan, the sources said.

The move is expected to nearly eliminate the MCA brand, which was first used in the early 1920s and later become synonymous with power in the entertainment industry.

MCA, which stands for Music Corp. of America, was founded by Jules Stein as a talent agency and soon developed into a powerhouse under the late media mogul Lew Wasserman.

The company later acquired Decca Records and about 30 years ago turned it into MCA Records. Liquor giant Seagram Co. acquired parent MCA Inc. and later merged it with PolyGram to form the world's largest record company. But the label had trouble shaking its reputation as a place where old acts withered away and new acts rarely achieved lasting success.

MCA Nashville, part of Universal's country-music operation, is thought to be the last vestige of the name.

Interscope declined to discuss details but issued a statement saying, "We have begun a restructuring process at MCA Records. Further details about the structure and staffing of the label will be announced shortly. We are grateful for the contributions made by the employees affected by these changes."

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