Stephen Cooper: The 2014 Billboard Power 100
NO. 16

Stephen Cooper

CEO, Warner Music Group

Convinced WMG owner to pull the trigger on Parlophone—the largest music industry acquisition in 2013

Stephen Cooper—who many initially saw as a caretaker for then-relatively new Warner Music Group owner Len Blavatnik—is the billionaire’s right-hand man, restructuring the major’s business significantly in the last 18 months.

In 2013 he oversaw the acquisition of Parlophone Records for $765 million, the biggest deal of the year. This was an important acquisition for WMG because it showed Blavatnik would be a long-term player and not just a financial owner looking to cut costs and flip the company like its previous private-equity owners did.

Executives in and around WMG privately say Cooper himself, a longtime corporate restructuring specialist without any previous music industry experience, now looks like he has settled in for the long haul and enjoys his job.

These insiders say Cooper gives the leaders of the company’s various divisions the tools they need to do their jobs and lets them get on with it. So at Atlantic Music Group, chairman/CEO Craig Kallman and chairman/COO Julie Greenwald (both No. 22) have a free hand in running the label as they see fit, while over at Warner Bros. Records, chairman/CEO Cameron Strang (No. 31)—who also oversees Warner/Chappell Music—is getting whatever resources he needs to revitalize the label, sources say.

On the other hand, when it comes to financials, Cooper is known as a micro-manager, scrutinizing every number and demanding explanations for every move. Blavatnik’s tenure promised less red tape than previous owners, but it also comes with less discretion with regard to spending decisions. So while WMG executives may still get quicker answers that give them the resources they need, they also have to get approval on a lot more deals because their discretion to make dollar commitments has seen thresholds lowered.