Napster names new CEO

File-sharing service Napster named Konrad Hilbers, a former senior executive at Bertelsmann AG, as its new chief executive officer (CEO) on Tuesday.

Hilbers, who has been with the German media giant since 1992, will be replacing Napster's interim CEO Hank Barry, according to a statement from Bertelsmann. Barry, who was named interim CEO in May 2000, will remain on Napster's board of directors, according to the statement.

For the last six months, Hilbers has served as chief administrative officer of BMG Entertainment, the music division of Bertelsmann, a Bertelsmann spokesman said. He was also executive vice president and chief operating officer for AOL/Bertelsmann Europe, which was at the time jointly owned by America Online Inc. and Bertelsmann, and is now owned by AOL Time Warner Inc.

The fact that a former Bertelsmann executive will now be heading up Napster is just another twist in the complicated relationship between the two companies. Bertelsmann was one of the major music labels that initially filed a copyright lawsuit against Napster, but in the midst of that lawsuit, BMG and Napster also formed an alliance in October 2000 to develop a paid subscription membership service.

In June, Napster Inc. signed a licensing deal with MusicNet, the upcoming online subscription music service which is a joint venture operated by Bertelsmann, AOL Time Warner, EMI Recorded Music and RealNetworks Inc.

At the time, Napster also said that by the third quarter of this year it hopes to offer a two-tiered paid music subscription service. Users will be able to subscribe to a basic Napster service, which will focus on small artists and independent record labels, or a premium service that will include music from the major labels, Barry said at the time.

Despite the company's continued legal problems and its severely restricted current service, Napster is pushing ahead with the planned launch of it new membership service, and Hilbers' first task will be to oversee the launch which is still expected by the end of August, according to the statement from Bertelsmann.

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