LABEL & PUBLISHING NEWS: Executive Swap Rumors At Sony BMG & Icahn: Time Warner Should Become 4 Companies

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Andy Lack’s time as CEO of Sony BMG seems to be coming to an end, as Bertelsmann and Sony close in on a peace plan that would end the very public feud over executive control of their Sony BMG Music Entertainment joint venture.

In the process, according to Billboard, Lack and non-executive chairman Rolf Schmidt-Holtz are set to trade roles, based on sources familiar with the proceedings.

Following his controversial period at the helm, Lack will give up control of the company in March when his contract expires, to become chairman of the Sony BMG board. Schmidt-Holtz, a Bertelsmann vet, will relocate to New York to take over as Sony BMG global operations CEO.

The 57-year-old Schmidt-Holtz is BMG’s former chairman and CEO. He is also Bertelsmann Group’s chief creative officer, and sits on the company’s management board. He will relinquish all Bertelsmann responsibilities to take over the joint venture.

Billboard reported that the move could be announced as early as next week. The amount of power in Lack’s hands after the reassignment is uncertain, but reports indicate that he may retain control of certain unspecified operations. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

Icahn: Time Warner Should Become 4 Companies

NEW YORK (AP) — Financier Carl Icahn proposed Tuesday that Time Warner be broken up into four separate companies, saying the media conglomerate had been poorly managed and focused excessively on the short term.

Icahn presented the results of a study he had commissioned from Lazard Ltd., a boutique investment bank, to analysts and reporters at a news conference in midtown Manhattan.

The report concludes that decisions by Time Warner's board have cost shareholders more than $40 billion over the past several years.

Bruce Wasserstein, the head of Lazard, said that among other problems, "Time Warner failed to nurture or invest in AOL." He also said that "since 2002, almost every strategic decision concerning AOL has been wrong."

Wasserstein said AOL did not take advantage of its leading position in instant messaging to develop a business in the emerging area of Internet-based telephone service, among other shortcomings.

Time Warner's deal in 2000 to be acquired by AOL led to huge problems, including accounting improprieties at AOL and a huge decline in the company's share price as well as a management purge.

Icahn has previously said he wants the company to spin off its cable TV unit, while the company has said it wants to keep about 85 percent of the business and spin off the rest. Icahn also wants a much bigger share buyback than the $12.5 program company has proposed.

Icahn has also recruited Frank Biondi, a former head of HBO and Viacom Inc., to serve as chief executive of Time Warner if Icahn's drive to install a new slate of directors succeeds, which is far from certain.

Icahn, who is known for agitating for changes at companies with varied degrees of success, has put together a group of investors that controls slightly more than 3 percent of Time Warner's stock.

He has also been critical of Time Warner's management, including the terms of the sale of its music division and corporate overhead costs. Time Warner has stood by its record.

Icahn's drive has so far failed to resonate widely among investors. This week, fellow media titan Rupert Murdoch stood up for Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, telling Newsweek that Icahn's drive to break up the company was unlikely to benefit shareholders.

"I don't know what Icahn thinks he's doing," Murdoch told the magazine. "Icahn has gone out on a limb."

Shares of Time Warner rose 1 cent in after hours trading after closing down 21 cents at $1.13 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. —-

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