Jon Platt will be leaving his position as chairman and CEO of Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, according to internal memos obtained by Billboard. The longtime publishing executive took over the top job at W/C in October 2015 after serving as president of creative North America for the company since 2012.
According to the memos, Platt will be leaving before the end of the calendar year, with an announcement on his next move forthcoming. But sources close to the situation tell Billboard that his next move could be taking the reins at Sony/ATV, the top publishing company in the music business, which has been headed by Martin Bandier for years. Reps for Sony/ATV didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Warner/Chappell is a very different company than the one he joined in 2012, and he leaves it well positioned for continued growth and change,” Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper wrote in a memo. “Our songwriters’ success in shaping the hits of today and the sounds of tomorrow is attracting a wealth of creative talent at all stages of their careers. At the same time, our outstanding global team is growing its reputation for always backing our songwriters with integrity and ambition.”
“Our songwriters have become the standard for creative excellence,” Platt wrote in the memo today (Sept. 14). “Our team has built Warner/Chappell into the strongest company it’s ever been. We’ve done it together, and we’ve done it our own way. I have no doubt that you can reach even higher.
“WMG is an amazing company,” Platt continued. “I’ve grown so much in my time here, not only as a music executive, but as a leader. I’ll be forever grateful to Steve Cooper and Len Blavatnik for their belief in me, and for their support. Most importantly, I want to thank you — all of you around the world — I am humbled by the support and trust you’ve so generously given me. Throughout my career, I’ve always put songwriters first. It’s a philosophy that has guided me well. I know you feel the same way. So I know that nothing is going to stop you from continuing the great work you are doing for songwriters.”
Under Platt’s leadership, Warner/Chappell was able to break Sony/ATV’s stranglehold on the top spot among music publishers in the third quarter of 2017, after Sony/ATV had held the No. 1 position for five straight years dating back to 2012. On Oct. 11, Platt is set to be honored with the Spirit of Life award at the City of Hope gala, which will be presented to him by Jay-Z. Platt was recruited by Sony Corp.’s top brass in Japan, sources tell Billboard.
“While we identify a new CEO, Jon will work with COO Carianne Marshall and the senior management team to ensure a smooth transition,” Cooper added in his memo. “With the Warner/Chappell U.S. team’s upcoming move to our new LA HQ, we have a great opportunity to build on our strong momentum.”
Platt had about two years remaining on his contract, but Warner Music Group agreed to release him from his deal early, sources tell Billboard, taking a markedly different approach than Universal Music Group did when Interscope’s Aaron Bay-Schuck signed a deal to lead Warner Bros. Records last year. (Bay-Schuck, who couldn’t get out of his contract early, still hasn’t started at WBR, though he’s expected to make the move official next month.) Marshall is in the running for Platt’s job, sources say, and Platt has indicated to insiders that she should eventually succeed him at Warner/Chappell.
Sony/ATV has been led by Bandier for a decade, which he turned into the biggest publisher in the world since taking over in 2007. Prior to running Sony/ATV, the 77-year-old Bandier had been in charge of EMI Music Publishing since 1991. Before EMI, he was a principal in SBK along with Steve Swid and Charles Koppelman, which they sold to EMI and led to how Bandier got the EMI job in the first place.
In 2012, Sony/ATV became the administrator of EMI’s publishing catalog, kicking off its five-year reign atop the publishers quarterly rankings. During his tenure, Sony bought out the Michael Jackson estate’s 50 percent ownership in Sony/ATV and then agreed to acquire EMI Music Publishing. The latter deal still needs EU Commission’s approval, but if goes through, it will mean that Sony/ATV has grown, through acquisitions and organic strategies, from about $350 million-$400 million to $1.34 billion since Bandier came aboard. Bandier also has his name atop Syracuse University’s music business track, called the Bandier Program For Music Business at the school.
Additional reporting by Hannah Karp and Ed Christman.