January 31, 2023

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Mike Dungan to retire as UMG Nashville head; Cindy Mabe to take the helm

4 min read

Longtime Universal Group Nashville chief Mike Dungan announced his impending retirement in a memo to employees Monday afternoon, saying he will step down after serving as chairman-CEO at Nashville’s top label group since 2012. The memo didn’t go on a line though. Legacy or timeline, sources said diversity It was announced that UMG Nashville President Cindy Mabe, Dungan’s longtime second-in-command, would soon step into the top job in March.

In the memo to employees, Dungan wrote, “The music business has been my home for 43 years — smiling, dialing, selling, laughing, laughing, doing my part to help art and magic realize its potential. And loving every minute of it.” . I have lived a charmed life, and there are no words to describe how grateful I am, and how blessed I feel, for everyone I have encountered along the way. I am proud that through it all, with few exceptions, I am a competitor. And went ‘all-in’ as a friend.”

Dungan’s memo continued: “The sobering fact is that over time, that intensity took its toll, and many dogs were knocked out of me. I will be 69 years old when I leave here. It’s time to slow down – I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and my garden. I have an incredible wife who has put up with my crap for 45 years. We have two wonderful kids who have two wonderful wives of their own. And we have five wonderful grandchildren that I absolutely want to spoil. I am eternally grateful to Sir Lucian Grange, who 11 years ago gave me the keys to the best job in the world. To him and everyone at UMG, who has been in the hands of my family now and in the past, to all the creators whose art it is my pleasure to represent.” Concluding the memo, Dungan wrote, “I am at a loss to express my love and gratitude. I am the luckiest man alive.”

Dungan’s retirement is not unexpected in Nashville circles. It was reported by the Tennessean in late 2016 that Exact, then 62, had signed an extension that would have kept him at UMG Nashville for another five years, and he had already served more than six years of the start of that five-year extension.

UMG chairman-CEO Sir Lucian Grainge indicated in a statement that Dungan would serve in some sort of advisory role.

“Mike is a unique force,” Grainge said. “He has had an incredible impact on the careers and well-being of many in Nashville over the years — from artists to employees. After a brilliant four decades in Nashville, and with our team well-positioned for continued strength, Mike is making an admirable and well-rounded life change. And while he won’t be serving in his CEO role, I’ve asked him to continue contributing to areas we’re both passionate about — breaking down genre barriers and providing critical support to artists past and present. I am deeply grateful to Mike for all he has done for our company and our artists, and congratulate him on the phenomenal success of his career. I am very pleased that we will continue to benefit from his experience, deep relationships and wisdom.”

In an unusual example of a true and seemingly transparent partnership at the top, Dungan has long made it clear that he considers Mabe to be virtually his equal in running country music’s top label group. Even as UMG Nashville’s second-in-command, Mabe was already the country music industry’s highest-ranking executive, and with her soon-to-be-announced elevation, she would become the first woman to head a major label. Group in Nashville.

Their dynasties have been together for a long time. Mabe was appointed president in 2014, two years after Dungan was named chairman/CEO. Their professional association goes back even further, though, to the eight years they spent together in their current partnership at UMG Nashville. It was in 2008, when the two first started working together on the Capitol Nashville label.

The UMG Nashville roster includes a disproportionate number of top country stars, including perennial Grammy and CMS winner Chris Stapleton, whom Mabe championed from the start, along with hitmakers such as Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, George Strait . , John Purdy, Reba McEntire, Lady A, Little Big Town, Sam Hunt, Vince Gill, Parker McCollum, Jordan Davis and Tyler Hubbard. One of country superstar Luke Bryan Dungan’s biggest success stories, Exceeding the singer from club to stadium label. Brian landed his 30th career No. 1 Airplay single with UMG in December.

Dungan, a Cincinnati native, began his career working in record stores, landing his first art work in rock promotion for RCA from 1979 to 1987, working with artists such as Hall and Oates, The Pointer Sisters and Rick Springfield — he He accepted the responsibility of breaking. The latter singer’s “Jesse’s Girl” when the rest of the label shunned it. He became a Midwestern marketing director for BMG, again on the pop side, then moved to country in 1990 after Clive Davis decided to start a country division for Arista and was given marketing responsibilities for the new imprint. In 2002, he became president of Capitol Nashville, a position he held for 12 years before being hired to lead UMG Nashville. When that label group absorbed Capitol, he was able to remain in command of his former roster as well as his new one.

For his part, Mabe, a North Carolina native, has been part of the country music industry since its inception. After graduating from Belmont University in 1995, he began his career with the RCA Label Group in Nashville and then as a product manager in 1995. He and Dungan briefly worked separately before Universal put him in charge of the Nashville division. When his deal was up in 2014, he was in talks to join as CEO of Sony Nashville, but elected to rejoin Dungan as president of UMG Nashville, establishing a partnership that lasted more than eight years.

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