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Vivendi names new CEO of MP3.com

Kicks out critical Robertson

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Updated Less than a week after it acquired MP3.com, new owners Vivendi Universal have kicked out the outspoken CEO Michael Robertson and replaced him with the far more corporate-friendly Robin Richards, who was previously president.

The move, which sees Robertson become an "advisor" to the CEO of Vivendi Jean-Marie Messier, was expected since Robertson has made it clear he thinks the subscription model that the music industry is seeking to impose on the Internet market will not work. He also made comments about not wanting to be part of a huge corporation.

The advisory role is a face saver and Robertson will be off soon. It'll be low key when Vivendi feels the situation has calmed down but it is already briefing people that Robertson is looking to "pursue other interests". There's even talk of him getting back to what he loves - being an entrepreneur. You know the deal.

Robin Richards on the other hand knows which side his bread is buttered and gave much cause for indigestion with his saccharine acceptance of the job.

"I am honoured to lead MP3.com into the next phase of its growth," he said. "Vivendi Universal, as a recognised world leader in all forms of media and communications, will add tremendously to the mission of MP3.com... Mr. Messier's goal of technological excellence and multi-platform access and distribution of content will be an area of great emphasis for MP3.com. We are proud to become a team mate of the great companies that make up the Vivendi Universal Group." If you've just got back from the toilet, there's more.

Mr Messier returned the leg stroking by saying: "As MP3.com's founding president, Robin Richards played a major role in the company's rise to global prominence. He possesses the leadership, innovation and dedication required to propel MP3.com to new heights and I am confident that he will make tremendous achievements within the Vivendi Universal Group."

MP3.com has had a hard time of it. It started off with the online music dream - that it would bring unknown musicians to the ears of millions of people and bypass the power-crazed music industry. Not a lot of money in this of course, so it decided to go Napster-style into music storage. This rankled the status quo, which threw hundreds of lawsuits its way.

And so it was snapped up by one of the record labels and is now switching to the controllable subscription model that the music industry has dreamed up. Digital Rights Management and proprietary technology. Control of music to specific machines and so on.

Not that Richards isn't capable. While Robertson was out there philosophising about what digital music and MP3 meant and all that, he was the one running the show. He's a practical businessman and that's why Vivendi likes him. If it didn't, it would have kicked him out as well and put in a Vivendi man. And he knows it.

Vivendi bought MP3.com for $372 million in cash and shares. The deal was passed by shareholders on Monday.

Update

Thanks to reader James Killian for bringing a story by the San Diego Union Tribune to our attention. The lengthy story is an in-depth rundown on Michael Robertson and if this sort of thing interests you, we recommend a read.

According to the Union Tribune, Robertson plans to get into the PC industry. He's been putting together a new company called Lindows.com and has opened a new office near MP3.com's. The company will focus on making Linux the consumer choice of OS.

It is looking at creating great apps such a new email system of digital music player. It's unsure where the money's coming from but Robertson is currently worth over $103 million - that being the value of shares he has in Vivendi since it took over MP3.com.

Robertson has taken an MP3.com exec, Kevin Carmony, with him to act as president of the new company. Carmony feels that the experience Robertson has with taking on the music industry equip him for dealing with Microsoft. We wish him all the best. ®

Related Link

The San Diego Union Tribune article

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