Darcus Beese is exiting his role as president/CEO of Island Records, Billboard has confirmed. The British-born executive, who first started working at Island in his native U.K. in 1989, had run the U.S. iteration of the label since July 2018. Hits first reported Beese was leaving.
Beese had replaced David Massey when taking over Island, and oversaw releases by Shawn Mendes, Jessie Reyez, The Killers, Skip Marley, Toni Braxton and more throughout his tenure, during which he also signed a slew of new artists to the Universal Music Group label. He also oversaw the label’s year-long celebration of Bob Marley’s 75th birthday in 2020, which included reissues, new recordings and more.
“Darcus informed us of his decision to return to the U.K. for personal reasons and to pursue new career opportunities there,” a UMG spokesperson said in a statement to Billboard. “We fully support his decision and we are thankful to Darcus for his many contributions to Island Records through the years.”
Beese’s relationship with Island in the U.K. goes back three decades, when he started his career as an intern at the house that Chris Blackwell built. Over the years, his A&R acumen shone with the signings of Amy Winehouse, Florence Welch, Taio Cruz and PJ Harvey, and he rose to the head of Island U.K. by 2013, while he earned a reputation as a well-respected and beloved executive who looked to put artists and their vision first. He was named as one of Billboard‘s Change Agents, recognized as one of the music business’ leaders who stepped up during a year of turmoil and action, last month.
In the fall of 2019, he spoke to Billboard about what set Island apart from other labels. “Sometimes it’s the ability to walk away from the madness of the deal, and sometimes it’s the ability to fuck the research and just go, ‘I love this. I’m going to do it,'” he said. “Because chasing the deal and the research records just puts me in the room with all the other people. So how can I go in a different direction that sets Island apart? I want to find some dope hip-hop, but I’m not Def Jam. I’m making pop, but I’m not going to be Republic. I have some amazing bands, but I’m not going to be Glassnote. You just have to recalibrate every day. We’re not trying to push every same thing, same genre, through the eye of the same needle.”