Lyor Cohen resigns as chairman, CEO of WMG’s recorded music division

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

Lyor Cohen is resigning as chairman and chief executive of Warner Music Group’s recorded music division after eight years with WMG effective Sept. 30, the company announced in a statement.

Cohen joined WMG in 2004 and oversaw the company’s transition from a primarily physical to largely digital business, and under his tenure the label charted successes with the Black Keys, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Michael Buble, Lupe Fiasco, Josh Groban and many other artists.


No reason was given for his departure and no details about what comes next for Cohen, who came to WMG after serving from 2002 to 2004 as as chairman and chief executive of Universal Music’s Island Def Jam Group. Before that he had been president of Def Jam from 1988 to 2002, and previously worked in a variety of capacities at Rush Management, the firm he founded with partner Russell Simmons.

“To all the artists and employees who live and die for the music every day, and who personally sacrifice for the good of the creative process: ‘keep on keepin’ on’ in the tradition of a company that respects and honors the artistic community,” Cohen said in the WMG statement.

A little more than one year ago, the Warner Music Group was sold to Access Industries, and shortly thereafter chief executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. switched roles at the company with chairman Stephen Cooper. Bronfman had led a private investor group’s 2004 purchase of WMG from Time Warner for $2.6 billion.

Bronfman also led WMG’s unsuccessful bid to acquire EMI’s music division. Regulators in the U.S. and the European Union gave the green light last week to Universal Music Group’s $1.9-billion acquistion of two-thirds of EMI’s music operation.

Access Industries chairman and founder Len Blavatnki said: “I personally want to thank Lyor for his dedication and contributions to Warner Music. He has been both a business partner and personal friend and I wish him only the best.”

WMG chief executive Stephen Cooper said in the same statement, “Lyor Cohen has built something very special here. While we understand his desire to move on to his next challenge, the enduring success of our recorded music division will serve as a great testament to the progress we’ve made during Lyor’s time at WMG. We are grateful for Lyor’s contributions, and we wish him the best. I’m confident that given the strength of our talented management team in Recorded Music, we’ll be able to drive further success.”

WMG senior executives will now report directly to Cooper. Warner Music Group encompasses labels including Warner Bros., Atlantic, Asylum, Elektra, Reprise, Nonesuch, Rhino, Rykodisc, Sire as well as the Warner/Chappell Music, one of the leading music publishing companies.

Update at 3:56 p.m.: An earlier edition of this post misspelled Janelle Monae’s surname as Morae.


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