Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Warner Music Group Gets a New Boss

Warner Music Group, which has new ownership, now has new management, too. Stephen Cooper, a board member at Access Industries, the investment group that bought Warner this summer, is now chief executive officer.

He replaces Edgar Bronfman Jr., who has run Warner Music Group since 2004, but will remain with the company as chairman of its board.

The company also announced that it is bringing Thomas Lee back to the company’s board. Lee had previously served as a board member from 2004 through this year, when his private equity company held a large stake in the music label. His reappointment does not mean he’ll be reinvesting in the company, I’m told.

People inside the company hold out the possibility that Bronfman could return to day-to-day leadership of the company if it succeeds in buying EMI Music, a longtime would-be merger partner currently owned by Citigroup. But even if Warner wins that bidding round, regulatory approval could take a year or more, so it’s not realistic to expect him back sooner than that, if ever.

Here’s Bronfman’s internal note to his employees, followed by the press release announcing the moves.

Dear Colleagues:

As Warner Music Group begins its next chapter, well-positioned for some truly exciting and unprecedented opportunities, I am pleased to announce we are adding a new member to our management team: Steve Cooper. Effective today, Steve will be serving as WMG’s Chief Executive Officer, working out of our New York office and I will serve as Chairman of the Board of WMG, continuing to work out of both our New York and London offices. Lyor and Cameron will remain in their positions, heading up Recorded Music and Music Publishing respectively, reporting directly to Steve.

I’d like to take a moment to explain to you the rationale behind this change:

Capitalizing on the opportunities before us will require an intensive and all-consuming effort from a broad and deep management team. For this reason, following the close of the sale and the transition of WMG from a public company to a subsidiary of Access Industries, in several discussions with Len and the Access team, I conveyed my strong conviction that my energies on behalf of the company would best be directed toward transformative transactions and long-term strategy. Len was supportive of my wishes provided we could identify the executive to whom I could hand off day-to-day management responsibilities. Fortunately, in Steve Cooper we have that executive.

Steve has a long and distinguished career of service to many companies. Having worked very closely with him over the past several months, I can tell you that he is a highly effective operator who brings a wide range of skills and experience to WMG, most recently, of course, as WMG’s Chairman. And, as a longtime partner to Len, Steve knows the Access team well and will be an effective liaison between them and WMG. More information about Steve’s background can be found in the press release we are issuing today.

Now, a few thank yous are in order. First of all, I want to thank Len and Access for being amenable to my kicking myself upstairs and understanding that I came to WMG as both an investor and operator—a dual role in which I have served throughout my career. After leading the acquisition from Time Warner, transforming the company, and selling it to Access, I believe I can add greater value by addressing the challenges WMG faces on a macro scale, while handing over the day-to-day reins to Steve.

Second, I want to thank Steve for being willing to swap roles with me. After collaborating so well with him, and sensing the energy and enthusiasm he brings to operating a company, I had no doubt that Steve was serving in the role that was more natural for me at this stage in my WMG tenure, while I was in the role in which Steve could bring to bear his many talents.

But the biggest thank you I’ve saved for last. And that’s to all our amazing employees around the world. Thank you. In transforming WMG, together we’ve performed something of a miracle. Despite the industry’s complex transition and the global economic downturn, we have grown profitability, improved our competitive position, and developed new business models, all while continuing to focus intensely on our core mission: artist development. A company’s true value is the quality of its employees, and you are the finest group of employees with whom I have ever worked. None of what we have accomplished could have happened without the extraordinary talent that is the WMG team.

I’m excited for what the next chapter holds. And I look forward to writing that chapter with all of you.

Please join me in welcoming Steve to the team. As always, please email me any questions or comments you may have.


NEW YORK, August 19, 2011 – Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG) today announced that Edgar Bronfman, Jr., who had been serving as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, has been appointed to the position of Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors and Stephen F. Cooper, who had been serving as Chairman, has been elected to serve as WMG’s Chief Executive Officer. Bronfman will focus on the company’s strategy and growth opportunities while Cooper will be responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations. Cooper will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.
Lyor Cohen, Chairman and CEO, Recorded Music and Cameron Strang, Chairman and CEO of Warner/Chappell Music, will remain in their positions, reporting directly to Cooper.
Thomas H. Lee, the Chairman and CEO of Thomas H. Lee Capital, LLC, who served as a member of WMG’s Board from March 2004 through July 2011, has been elected as a new Director of WMG. With the appointment of Lee, the size of WMG’s Board has increased from nine to 10 members.
Bronfman said, “With the Access Industries transaction closed and WMG well-positioned for its next exciting chapter, it was clear that in order to best seize the strategic opportunities before us, we needed to deploy our team in the most effective and imaginative manner possible. Given my desire to focus on growth opportunities and Steve’s extensive background in management across a wide array of companies and industries, I am grateful that Steve accepted the offer to change roles and to serve as our CEO. I look forward to continuing our successful partnership.”
Bronfman added, “I’m pleased to welcome Tom Lee to our Board. Tom and I previously served together on WMG’s Board, and his contributions were invaluable. We’re fortunate that going forward we’ll be able to benefit from his insight and his history with the company.”
In addition to his role with WMG, Cooper is a member of the Supervisory Board for LyondellBasell Industries N.V., one of the world’s largest olefins, polyolefins, chemicals and refining companies. Cooper is an advisor at Zolfo Cooper, a leading financial advisory and interim management firm, of which he was a co-founder and former Chairman. Cooper is also Managing Partner of Cooper Investment Partners, a private equity firm. He has more than 30 years of experience as a financial advisor, and has served as chairman or chief executive officer of various businesses, including Vice Chairman and member of the office of Chief Executive Officer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Telcom. Cooper received a B.A. from Occidental College and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.

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