An Ear For Talent And A Mind For Business: Sylvia M. Rhone, W’74

Sylvia Rhone’s skill in picking the hottest superstars has pushed record label revenues as well as chart hits to the peak of her industry.

Today she is a recording industry luminary, having risen to the top ranks of a male dominated industry as the first black female CEO of a major record company. Rhone led one of Warner Music Group’s most prestigious labels as chairman and CEO of the Elektra Entertainment Group, where she guided the consolidation of four labels into the Elektra Entertainment Group. Under her leadership, Elektra enjoyed a nearly decade long run with such chart-topping, award-winning artists as Missy Elliott, Metallica, Jet, Fabolous, Tracy Chapman, and Jason Mraz, among others.

Rhone exited that post in March 2004 when Elektra was dismantled by Warner, its parent company. Today she is president and executive vice president of Motown Records/Universal Records, with direct responsibility for the Motown label, whose stars include Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and Michael McDonald.

Raised in New York’s Harlem, Rhone began her career with a trainee position at a large New York City bank. Within a year, Rhone quit her banking job to pursue her passion for music, taking a secretarial position at Buddah Records to get her foot in the door. Over the next several years, Rhone won a succession of promotions, taking on broader responsibilities in 1986 with her appointment as vice president/general manager of Atlantic’s Black Music Operation. Two years later she was promoted to senior vice president of Atlantic Records.

In 1990, she was named CEO/President of Atlantic’s new East/West Records America division, and later chairman as well. Often cited for her skill in picking the hottest superstars, Rhone helped fuel the rapid growth of East/West’s Black Music Division, where from March 1988 to May 1990, revenues increased by 400 percent. Among her most significant recent projects at Motown: coaxing into completion Stevie Wonder’s A Time to Love, released in October 2005 and his first studio album in a decade.

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