Capitol Music Group Chairman & CEO Steve Barnett to Retire, Taps New Leadership Team

Steve Barnett
Lester Cohen

Steve Barnett

Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2020, the company announced today (Nov. 5). Barnett, a 50-year veteran of the music business, had spent the past eight years at the helm of the Universal Music Group-owned company, which he joined in 2012 after a stint as co-chairman/COO of Columbia.

As part of the announcement, Barnett, 68, said that current Capitol Records president Jeff Vaughn and current Capitol Music Group COO Michele Jubelirer will take over atop the company. Vaughn will serve as chairman/CEO of CMG, while Jubelirer will become president/COO of CMG. Barnett was joined by UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge in making the announcement this morning.

“This has been an incredible journey, and I’ve been tremendously fortunate to work with such amazing people along the way," Barnett said in a statement. "I am indebted to Lucian for his unwavering belief in me and for his unreserved support for our efforts these entire eight years. To say that I will always be grateful to him is truly an understatement. Michelle was the first to join me at CMG and has been my partner in revitalizing the company and creating an environment where artists and our employees could thrive. From the moment Jeff joined us, I knew he’d quickly make his mark on Capitol, and I’m certain that he and Michelle are the perfect team to guide CMG into the future. My appreciation extends to Boyd Muir and my many friends at UMG who have been there for me and my team these past eight years. I thank you all.”

“When we acquired EMI, Capitol was a gem that had lost its luster," Grainge said in a statement. "Under Steve’s leadership, Capitol has been rebuilt into one of music’s greatest homes for artist and employee talent. It’s a fitting crown to Steve’s incredible five-decade career. To assure that Capitol’s next chapter is equally successful, we have appointed two gifted executives to lead the company. On behalf of the entire UMG family, I congratulate Jeff and Michelle on their well-deserved promotions and I especially want to thank Steve for making Capitol shine bright once again and wishing him a wonderful retirement with Nancy and the children.”

Barnett took over at the helm of Capitol in November 2012, after UMG's acquisition of EMI's recorded-music division for $1.9 billion, and moved the company's headquarters back to Los Angeles' Capitol Tower from New York City. Over the past eight years, the Capitol family of companies -- which includes Capitol Records, Motown, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol Christian Music Group and distributor Caroline -- has broken the likes of Halsey, Sam Smith, Lewis Capaldi and Maggie Rogers, and is the home to artists like Beck, Katy Perry, Niall Horan and Paul McCartney. Through a partnership between Motown and Atlanta-based Quality Control Music, Capitol also has Migos, Lil Yachty, City Girls and Lil Baby on its roster, while Caroline's partnership with 10K Projects means it distributes Surfaes, Internet Money and Trippie Redd.

Capitol celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2017 with a year-long celebration that included vinyl reissues, a docuseries, a photo/essay book from Taschen and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with the Los Angeles city council declaring Nov. 15 Capitol Records Day in the city.

Prior to Capitol, Barnett had been at the helm of Columbia Records since 2005, where he was co-chairman alongside Rob Stringer, where the company broke artists like Adele and One Direction and released massive albums by the likes of Beyoncé, John Mayer and AC/DC. The British-born Barnett had spent a decade at Epic Records, which he joined in 1996 as senior vp international, where he rose to the rank of president in 2004. He began his career in London in 1970, where he worked as an agent representing some of England's biggest artists at the time, and then moved into management, becoming president of Hard To Handle Management, which included AC/DC as a client. Barnett has been on Billboard's Power 100 lists since their inception.

Vaughn was named president of Capitol Records in December 2019, after an extended successful run as vp A&R at Artist Partner Group/Artist Publishing Group, which is under the Atlantic Records umbrella. While at APG he worked with the likes of YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Kehlani, Lil Skies and Kevin Gates, among others. In a first year altered by the pandemic, Capitol released Sam Smith's Love Goes last week and has had success with his single "Diamonds," as well as Lewis Capaldi's "Before You Go," which reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 last month, and Halsey's Manic and Katy Perry's Smile.

Jubelirer, meanwhile, has been at Capitol since 2012, when Barnett tapped her as executive vp from her position as a partner at King, Holmes, Paterno, where she had worked with artists such as Frank Ocean, Pharrell and Kesha, among others. She was promoted to COO in 2015, taking over operations for the entire Capitol Music Group. She'll now add the title of president to her resume as she takes over a larger role at the music group.