Pioneering music executive Sylvia Rhone is in talks with bosses at Universal Music Group to exit as president of Universal Motown, a major label arm of the world's largest music company.
Under one scenario, according to two persons familiar with the situation, Rhone — perhaps the industry highest-ranking female and African-American executive — would be head a new production entity fully or partly financed by Universal.
"It's just too early" to know the outcome of the talks, a confidante of Rhone told The Wrap.
Rhone — whose list of new and hit artists ranges from hip hop’s Busta Rhyme to Motown legend Stevie Wonder to R&B star Brandy and Erykah Badu — wasn't immediately available for comment. Nor could a spokesman for Universal Music be reached.
In an industry where African-American talent has long been at the core, Rhone's departure from Univeral Motown would leave the executive suite of major labels devoid of an African American presence at the industry top rungs.
The exit of Rhone also would come amid a cost-cutting push under the new chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge that’s expected to shed, by some reports, hundreds of millions of dollars.
Speculation about Rhone's fate has been rampant since Doug Morris, her longtime mentor and Universal Music CEO, was named CEO of rival Sony Music Entertainment in March. Morris' exit from Universal followed the appointment of his successor, Graige, on New Year's Day.
Rhone's music career stretches back to a secretarial job at Budda Records in the mid-1970s. A decade and a half later, she was named CEO of EastWest Records, a division of Atlantic Records, becoming the first African American woman atop a major music company.
She thereafter continuously broke racial barriers in the executive suit of the music industry.
The current roster at Universal Motown includes Lil Wayne, Drake and Erykah Badu.