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George Ash to Exit Universal Music Australia

todayDecember 12, 2022 1

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BRISBANE, Australia — George Ash is stepping down as president of Universal Music Australia and New Zealand.

In a surprise announcement that hit inboxes as the music industry settled in for the first day of the working week, Universal Music Group announced Ash would retire from his position at the end of the year.

“The time is right for me to step down from Universal,” says the outgoing executive in a corporate statement. “I feel confident that with the brilliant leadership group we have now, the organization will continue to grow and thrive. 

New Zealand-born Ash will leave UMA as part of a “long-planned personal decision to focus on new goals and projects,” reads the statement, “whilst leaving the company under the leadership of a new generation of executives, who will continue to build on the legacy of creative and commercial success that has flourished during his tenure.”

With Ash at the helm of the Sydney-based business, UMA helped establish the careers of a long list of artists from these parts, including Lorde, Baker Boy, Amyl and The Sniffers, Tame Impala, Gotye, Dean Lewis, Troye Sivan and many others.

“Under George’s leadership, the UMA team has delivered countless local and international artist successes in this incredibly dynamic market,” comments Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group. “We are grateful to George for his dedication to, and passion for, our artists, and for the historic achievements of UMA during his tenure.”

A musician early in his career, Ash relocated to Australia in 2001 to become managing director at UMA, and was promoted to president in 2010, with duties for Universal Music’s companies on both sides of the Tasman.  In 2013, he added duties for the Asia Pacific region.

During his tenure, Ash also served a member of the ARIA board and as chairman of Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) board.

Prior to his move west, Ash enjoyed stints at BMG NZ and PolyGram in his homeland, and was instrumental in the creation of MCA Geffen, Universal Music’s first operations in New Zealand, back in 1995.

In an internal message to staff, seen by Billboard, Ash writes: “Having been with the company for nearly three decades, the time feels right. I am so confident in, and proud of, the brilliant leadership team we have in place, as well as the positive changes we have made in the past couple of years, and I am excited to see the company, staff, labels, and artists continue to grow and thrive in the years ahead.”

The company is “filled with exceptional people, and it has been a privilege to share this journey with you all. My heartfelt thanks go to Sir Lucian Grainge for his incredible support and guidance, and to Boyd Muir, with whom I have worked since the very beginning of my time at UMG.”

As previously reported, Ash last year initiated an investigation into workplace culture at UMA, following allegations of inappropriate behavior within its ranks. Ash tapped Darren Perry at law firm Seyfarth Shaw, to conduct a probe into workplace culture, after a string of allegations emerged online and an internal complaint was lodged with HR.

“After 35 years working in music, my love for it has not diminished,” comments Ash in his message to staff on Monday (Dec. 12), “and I’m as excited for the future as I was back then, when I was working the nightshift in the Polygram pressing plant in Wellington.”

A successor will be announced “at a later date,” reads a statement.

Read Ash’s message to staff:

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to let you all know that I will be stepping down from my role as President of UMA at the end of the year. 

This is something that I have been planning for a long time, as I still have many areas of personal interest and passions that I want to explore. 

Having been with the company for nearly three decades, the time feels right. I am so confident in, and proud of, the brilliant leadership team we have in place, as well as the positive changes we have made in the past couple of years, and I am excited to see the company, staff, labels, and artists continue to grow and thrive in the years ahead.

I am also proud of the role that I have played in transforming UMA into the market-leading music company. It has been an honor to work with so many talented and creative artists, including Lorde, Baker Boy, Amyl and The Sniffers, Tame Impala, Gotye, Hayley Westenra, Wolfmother, Dean Lewis, Hilltop Hoods, Troye Sivan, Empire of the Sun, A.B. Original, Tina Arena, Havana Brown, The Presets, Boy & Bear, Powderfinger, Bernard Fanning, Sarah Blasko, Tkay Maidza and countless others, especially those that we have helped introduce to new audiences around the world.  It has also been a pleasure to welcome so many of UMG’s international artists to our shores, and to help them achieve great success here.

This company is filled with exceptional people, and it has been a privilege to share this journey with you all. My heartfelt thanks go to Sir Lucian Grainge for his incredible support and guidance, and to Boyd Muir, with whom I have worked since the very beginning of my time at UMG. 

My adoration, respect and gratitude go to so many of my colleagues here in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. I have so many fond memories, favorite shows, and most of all friendships from my time here. 

After 35 years working in music, my love for it has not diminished, and I’m as excited for the future as I was back then, when I was working the nightshift in the Polygram pressing plant in Wellington. 

My enduring thanks and admiration.

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