Sanctuary Loses Smallwood And Maiden

Sanctuary Music Group co-founder and Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood has left the company and taken his band with him.

The act was known to be out of contract with the financially troubled London-based music operation, and within days of former chief exec Merck Mercuriadis leaving the company, a November 3rd statement confirmed that Smallwood and Maiden are also on their way out.

It quoted Smallwood saying, “It’s obviously a bit of a wrench leaving Sanctuary after all these years but, at this time in my career and with the band’s ever increasing international stature, it makes total sense for me to concentrate on developing the band’s huge potential in the many areas of what is now a very complex and time consuming business.”

Smallwood’s new company is called Phantom Music Management.

Within the space of a few days, the speculation that’s surrounded the futures of Mercuriadis and Smallwood since the end of August has been settled by their departures.

However, the manner of those departures suggest the behind-the-scenes circumstances were very different.

The relationship between Mercuriadis and Sanctuary looks to have been on the wane since January 2005, when – in an unpublicised move – he stepped down as chief exec.

For the last two months, he’s been rumoured and reported to have been quitting Sanctuary to work with Irving Azoff’s and Howard Kaufman’s Front Line Management.

Mercuriadis didn’t comment throughout those two months and the next news didn’t come until an October 27th press release from Gary Farrow’s London-based The Corporation saying he was off Sir Elton John‘s creative management team by “mutual agreement.”

It was an odd way for the news to come out as The Corporation is better known for handling Sir Elton’s personal press, including giving details of how much he’s made for charity, which newspaper he’s currently suing, and his gay relationship and marriage to David Furnish.

Four days later, it was made to look even odder when a second press release that New York-based publicists Rogers & Cowan released on behalf of Twenty-First Artists – the flamboyant knight’s Sanctuary-owned management company – also carried the news Twenty-First’s Clive Banks and Johnny Barbis would be handling the creative management duties in the future.

However, it made no mention of the split between Mercuriadis and Sir Elton, but it did have a footnote: “Merck Mercuriadis has resigned from Sanctuary Group, effective today.”

There’s been no comment from Mercuriadis or Frank Presland, who is head of Twenty-First Artists and has been chief exec of Sanctuary since company co-founder Andy Taylor was dumped over accounting regularities in May.

Presland didn’t respond to Pollstar‘s invitation to comment beyond saying “no comment is necessary.”

On the official press release announcing Smallwood’s departure, Presland was more vocal and quoted saying, “Although we are obviously sad to see the band and Rod depart from a management and company standpoint, we are delighted to be able to continue with the band long term as their worldwide merchandiser and U.S. label.

“The parting with Rod and Maiden is entirely amicable and we are delighted that Rod has made himself available to Sanctuary as a consultant and look forward to a long a valuable relationship with him and the band. All at Sanctuary wish them both the very best for the future,” he added, which is a warmer send-off than Mercuriadis got.

It would appear that relationships between Smallwood and Presland (and Sanctuary) are better then those between Mercuriadis and Presland.

There’s bound to be speculation if that’s because of personal differences or because contractual relations with Smallwood and his act are more harmonious than the ones between Sanctuary and the Mercuriadis acts (Morrissey and Guns N’ Roses).

As chief exec of a company that has mountainous debts, it may be that Presland is just more relieved to save Sanctuary the £1.2 million that Mercuriadis cost in 2005 compared to the £491,000 that company co-founder Smallwood took.

As Taylor also took £491,000 in 2005, the departure of all three of them has taken at least £2 million per annum of the Sanctuary wage bill.

Following two years of profit warnings and financial catastrophes, and having rejected a takeover approach from the MAMA management company, Presland and Sanctuary chairman Bob Ayling – the former British Airways chief brought in just before Taylor’s departure – will now look to build the AIM-listed company’s management business on Twenty-First (which also has James Blunt), the Trinifold stable including The Who and Robert Plant, and its own U.K. division headed by Martin Hall and representing acts including Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, and Groove Armada.

It also has the profitable Bravado Merchandising business, which will continue servicing Iron Maiden, and agency interests including John Jackson’s K2 and the somewhat depleted Helter Skelter.

– John Gammon