Layoffs Begin Hitting Universal Music Group; Capitol Co-President Arjun Pulijal Stepping Down

UPDATE, March 4, 2020 1:09 pm PST: Sources tell Variety that Arjun Pulijal, Capitol Music Group president since January of 2022, is stepping down from his post. The news follows former chairman-CEO Michelle Jubelirer’s exit last month and the layoffs that hit the company last week. Tom March was named as Jubelirer’s replacement the day after her departure, with Lillia Parsa being named co-president along with Pulijal; presumably she will be the company’s sole president going forward.

[Original post, February 29, 2024 1:28 pm PST:]

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As expected, layoffs began hitting Universal Music Group almost immediately after the company’s earnings call on Wednesday. The moves, which have been signaled by chairman-CEO Lucian Grainge since last fall, were still evolving at the time of this article’s publication, and follow the broad consolidation of the company’s labels under Interscope (West Coast) and Republic (East Coast) groups, and CEOs John Janick and Monte Lipman, respectively.

Sources say the majority of the layoffs, which are said to reach into the high hundreds, are hitting the West Coast, where many roles in the large Interscope and Capitol groups are being combined. A similar move is taking place on the East Coast, with Def Jam and Island moving under Republic, but those two labels have considerably smaller staffs than Capitol.

The departments most effected at press time include promotion and publicity, with sources saying catalog divisions and the U.K. are likely to be impacted as well. Sources tell Variety they are likely to continue through the end of the week and possibly longer.

While similar reductions at major companies often see the ascendant divisions subsuming other ones, all of UMG’s labels are losing staff. The label heads are to remain in place — following the departure early this month of Capitol chair-CEO Michelle Jubelirer, who ironically was named Billboard’s Women in Music top executive of 2024 just this morning — but prominent people said to be leaving include longtime Interscope promotion execs Brenda Romano and Chris Lopes, whose roles will be filled by Capitol’s Gary Marella; in a related move, Def Jam’s Natina Nimene is said to be overseeing all urban promotion for that label as well as Republic, Island and Mercury.

Interscope head of publicity Cara Donatto is also leaving the company; her role presumably will be filled by Capitol’s Ambrosia Healy. Def Jam’s longtime head of publicity Gabe Tesoriero is exiting as well; his role will likely be filled by Republic’s Joseph Carozza.

Sources (or the individuals themselves) tell Variety that dozens of lower-level employees have been let go as well.

In the most recent of a long string of announcements, on Wednesday the company detailed in its earnings report “a strategic organizational redesign which will generate [around $270] million in annual run-rate savings by 2026, all of which is accretive to EBITDA, through a combination of headcount reduction and other operational efficiencies. The “plan is designed to achieve efficiencies in targeted cost areas while strengthening labels capabilities to deepen artist and fan connections.”

Reps for the company either declined or did not respond to requests for comment; Variety will have more on this news as the situation develops.

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