Productive First Day For New Sony CEO

Posted by | July 6, 2011 | 7,266 views

"Welcome back, Mr. Morris."

Septuagenarian Doug Morris began his reign as the king chili cheese of Sony Music yesterday when his chauffeur-driven Maybach pulled into 550 Madison Ave. and up to the reactivated private executive elevator that was put out of commission years ago taking him directly to the 32nd floor where he will now reside in the corner office suite.

After walking past his three secretaries to his private office, he sat at his desk and ate a light breakfast of stewed prunes and wheatina. He used to have fresh fruit but that was when he was younger, in his 60’s, and his digestive system was more durable.

One of his secretaries walked in with print outs of some congratulatory emails. Doug told her that he would dictate his responses to them later in the day. How does that email machine work anyway?

After breakfast Morris made his first official phone call as CEO of Sony Music. It was to Tommy Mottola asking him what he should do and offering Tommy a label deal. He figured it would be a good time to revive the old Portrait Records label.

A meeting followed this with fellow septuagenarian (soon to be octogenarian) Clive Davis. Of course, Doug had to go to Clive’s office to meet, where they discussed the direction that Clive was taking the company as Chief Creative Officer. Davis enthused poetically about the projects he was working on like a Santana album of Jimi Hendrix covers, a new Harry Connick, Jr. album of movie themes from the 1940’s, Rod Stewart singing the Al Jolson songbook and a Gino Vanelli comeback album. Morris suggested that the label sign reunion projects from Brownsville Station and England Dan & John Ford Coley. Doug may be in his 70’s but he’s not stuck in the 70’s. He understands that in tough economic times, people turn to the familiar to provide comfort, though he may not have been paying a lot of attention to the music business lately.

Morris then headed back to his office where he had a meeting planned with fellow septuagenarian Marty Bandier and the big boss, a soon-to-be fellow septuagenarian Howard Stringer. The meeting was scheduled to take place in Morris’ private conference room in his office suite but it had been converted to a small clinic with a registered nurse on duty who is well versed in the operation of the newly installed defibrillators. Sony Corp had taken out a life insurance policy on Morris just in case, but it doesn’t pay if he expires on the premises. So the meeting was moved to his private office where the three discussed who serves the best bowl of borscht in Manhattan, that is after they explained to Stringer that it was beet soup. Sir Howard was thrilled with Morris since he had significantly cut Sony’s health costs by hiring executives who are all on MediCare. Good work, Doug!

His next meeting was with Thomas Hesse, Sony Music’s head of digital, with Morris pressuring Hesse to bring “this internet thing to an end. It’s killing CD sales!” Hesse told Morris that he had a great idea that would surely keep customers from copying CD’s and putting them up on the web.  “It’s this little bit of software that we embed on the CD’s. We don’t have to tell a soul.”  Morris then asked Hesse if he could have a “download machine” installed in his office.

It’s now past noon and Morris, along with his septuagenarian doppelganger Mel Lewinter, start to fret over lunch. They finally realize that it will be very difficult to find an acceptable delicatessen on the East Side, so they decide to limo over to the Carnegie Deli on the West Side. There’s serious talk about having the Carnegie owners open a little satellite restaurant inside the Sony Club, at Sony’s expense naturally.

The two are accompanied to lunch by Columbia Records execs Rob “Fredo” Stringer and Steve Barnett who will try to prepare Morris for the huge second week sales slide of the new Beyoncé album, explain to him who Simon Cowell is and tout the success of Rick Rubin’s artist, Adele. Once seated at the Carnegie, everyone orders corned beef sandwiches, Stringer and Barnett ordering theirs on white bread with mayonnaise and ketchup on the side. The whole time Morris is trying to figure out why Barnett keeps calling him “mate”.

By 2:30 PM Morris and company are back at the office, just in time for his meeting with Ryan Seacrest. He wants to do a joint venture with the ersatz Dick Clark that will focus on the “youth market”. The deal is sealed within an hour.

Afterward Morris stretches out on his comfy office couch to relax and catch his breath only to find the registered nurse holding a mirror under his nose to make sure that he was still alive.

Morris begins watching reruns of Glee and America’s Got Talent when he takes a call from Sylvia Rhone. He tells her that he’ll have something interesting to talk to her about as soon as Sir Howard retires and asks her how she gets along with Beyoncé.

The end of the day comes and new Epic Records Group chairman L.A. Reid pops by to speak with Doug about the artist roster. Morris tells him that the timing is perfect for a new REO Speedwagon album and he should get on it.

As Doug packs up his briefcase Lewinter shows up and they deliberate on the most important decision of the day: where to have dinner.

All in all a very productive day for the new King of Sony Music.

UPDATE: 11:47pm, July 5. A reader wrote me the following:  ”the sad reality is almost as funny as your concoction:  Morris is on vacation his first two weeks on the job, not truly having his first day until July 18! no joke.” Great work if you can get it.

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6 Comments for “Productive First Day For New Sony CEO”

  1. Lenny D.

    Wayne,

    Thanks for the response and the links. I read through the Mnookin article and don’t think it supports the idea that Morris is completely clueless regarding technology. For instance, there’s a section, which indicates that UMG made some strides in technology areas while Morris was there, including licensing deals with online companies and retailers, developing mastertones, looking into subscription services, and the easing of file copying for use with multiple devices (see page 3). While these initiatives may not be a result of Morris’ direct actions or knowledge, they occurred under his direction and he deserves some credit.

    Furthermore, there’s a lot more to being a record executive than just digitial strategies. Morris’ credentials as a talent developer and scout are well chronicled and are mentioned in the article.

    More importantly at the moment is how Morris handles corporate structure and the market. What I’m referring to is the impending sale of EMI. This article, http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/news/newsPage.cgi?news08610m01, makes it seem like Len Blavatnik as CEO of WMG, is not necessarily going to have the opportunity to absorb EMI as many expected. Sony will obviously be a player in any deal involving EMI, so Morris’ leadership in regards to this issue may be equally important.

    I’m playing a bit of devil’s advocate here, as I agree with you that the record labels need an influx of young management more capable of adapting to the technology-driven shifts in the industry. In fact, with the current devaluation of recording rights, the labels need to reconsider their business models or risk becoming significantly less relevant in the music business. I just thought it was a bit unfair to criticize Morris out of hand by appealing to a simplified characterization.

  2. Wayne Rosso

    Lenny

    Doug Morris’s complete ignorance of technology is well documented. Specifically he is remembered for an infamous interview he did with Wired Magazine a few years ago where he showed his cluelessness.

    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2007/11/universal_music_ceo_doug_morris.html

    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/15-12/mf_morris

    And there are many stories that circulate throughout the industry, like how Doig doesn’t know how to use email.

  3. Lenny D.

    So, after reading ~1000 of your carefully chosen words, I now know that Doug Morris is in his 70s, along with several other Sony executives.

    What I don’t know from your article is whether Morris is actually and objectively out of touch with technology. If he is, as you so satirically point out, what evidence or anecdote can you offer as evidence?

  4. Satire

    Where did he park his mobility scooter – somewhere on Madison???

  5. In recent market research most adolescents saw Apple being a young persons brand and Sony old (with the exception of the X-box, although the Sony branding is virtually invisible).

    So glad to see Doug as the poster boy and centrefold for his company ;)

  6. Hernandez Family

    Uncle Doug, we are very happy for you and the family, and we’re glad you went to Sony.Now let’s make Sony #1 Yeaaaaaaa!
    Love The Hernandez family

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