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MCA & Geffen Merger
May 20, 2003

Before the end of the year, the MCA moniker -- first used in 1924 -- may cease to exist. Sources say the current plan is to eliminate the MCA Records brand and move the majority of the label's staff and some of the roster under the banner of fellow Universal Music Group label Geffen Records. The reason, according to insiders, is that the MCA brand has become "tarnished" by a history of acquisitions and mergers as well as the label's decline in sales and prestige during the past few years.

If the plan, which is still being negotiated, comes to fruition, it is expected that the majority of MCA's staff will be brought under Geffen, thus transforming Geffen into a full-service label again, sources said. Jordan Schur, president of Geffen Records, is negotiating a new contract to helm the new Geffen.

Representatives from MCA and Interscope Geffen A&M declined comment.

The waves at MCA Records finally crashed in January when Jay Boberg decided to call it a day after nearly eight years as president of the label. His departure came after a dismal sales year for MCA Records. The company was banking on Shaggy's 2002 album, "Lucky Day," to carry it through the slump, but the release has sold only about 250,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. Shaggy's MCA debut, "Hot Shot," was the top-selling album worldwide in 2001.

MCA (Music Corporation of America) was founded in 1924 by Jules Stein as a Chicago talent agency (Lew Wasserman joined the company in 1936). In 1949, MCA began producing TV shows under its Revue Prods. banner. By the late '50s, MCA had acquired Universal Studios and gone public as MCA Inc.

In 1962, MCA Inc. acquired Decca Records, which turned into MCA Records in 1973. During the next few decades, MCA Inc. acquired ABC Records, Chess Records, and Geffen Records to form MCA Music Entertainment Group. After Seagram acquired MCA Inc. in 1995, MCA Inc. was renamed Universal Studios and the MCA Music Entertainment Group was renamed Universal Music Group. In 1999, MCA Music Publishing was renamed Universal Music Publishing. MCA Records is the last company to bear the MCA name.

It is hoped that the merger of Geffen and MCA's staff will bring Geffen back to its former glory. When Seagram acquired UMG in 1999, Geffen's staff of 145 was stripped down, and the label subsequently merged as an imprint under the Interscope Geffen A&M banner.

Geffen, which once boasted Nirvana and Guns N' Roses as its prime artists, has a small current roster that includes Cold and Counting Crows. It remains unclear where all of MCA's artists will land. Many will go to Geffen, some will be cut, and others may fall under Interscope, sources said.

MCA's current artists include Mary J. Blige, Blink-182, New Found Glory, Live, A-Teens, Common, Avant, Sigur Ros, Cafe Tacuba, the Roots, Fiction Plane and Something Corporate.

-billboard.com


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