Ben Cook has stepped down with immediate effect from his post as president of Atlantic Records U.K. His surprise and sudden exit from the frontline Warner label — home to Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Twenty One Pilots — follows disciplinary actions over the exec dressing up as a member of Run DMC at a party seven years ago.
In a statement Cook said: “It is with great sadness that today I announce I am stepping down as President of Atlantic Records, U.K.”
“Seven years ago, at a birthday party where guests were asked to come dressed as their favorite musical icon, I came as a member of Run DMC. Late last year rumors began to circulate about my appearance at that event, many of which are simply untrue. While my intention was to honor a musical hero, I recognize my appearance was offensive and I made a terrible mistake.”
Cook went on to say, “As a consequence of this, I readily agreed to disciplinary actions by my employer last year. Since then however, allegations surrounding the party have continued to be made against me. Moreover, they have been used against a wonderful company and the label I love. I have therefore come to the conclusion that I should make this statement and step down, with immediate effect.”
He added: “I am devastated that this mistake has caused upset and has called into question my commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, values which I have championed throughout my career. I have learned a great deal from this event and will resolutely continue to champion these values moving forward.”
Cook unreservedly apologized to anyone who has been hurt by his actions.
A spokesperson for Warner Records confirmed that Cook is leaving the label and “this will be his last week in the office.” Warner sources say Parlophone co-president Mark Mitchell will take on the leadership of Atlantic on an interim basis.
Cook was promoted to president of Atlantic U.K. in 2014 following his successful six-year tenure as president of Asylum Records U.K. where he was responsible for signing and helping develop the careers of Ed Sheeran and BRIT Award-winning dance act Rudimental, among others.
He originally joined Atlantic Records in 2007 as managing director of the Asylum imprint, which he re-launched the subsequent year. Prior to joining Atlantic Records, Cook was head of the record label division of British independent Ministry of Sound.