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Paul Rosenberg to Step Down as Def Jam Chairman/CEO: Exclusive

Paul Rosenberg is set to step down as chairman/CEO of Def Jam Recordings, sources tell Billboard. The move, which is described as amicable, comes just over two years after he assumed the top job at…

UPDATE (8:03 pm): In an official press release, Def Jam confirmed that Paul Rosenbeg has stepped down from the label to launch Goliath Records, a new joint venture with UMG, while also remaining the principal of Goliath Artists and president of Shady Records. The company further revealed that Jeffrey Harleston — Universal Music Group’s general counsel and executive vp of business & legal affairs — will serve as interim chief of the label in his stead. Additionally, the company announced that Universal Music Group senior vp of A&R Naim McNair will expand his responsibilities by taking on the role of senior vp of A&R at Def Jam. Rosenberg will continue to serve as a consultant to Def Jam on its legacy artists. 

The Paul Rosenberg era at Def Jam Recordings is coming to an end. 

Billboard has learned that Rosenberg will be stepping down as chairman and CEO of the legendary label in order to concentrate on his management company Goliath Artists — where Rosenberg has helmed Eminem‘s career for more than two decades — and Shady Records, a joint venture with Interscope in which he and Eminem are partners.

Sources say that the decision is amicable on Rosenberg’s part; He took the Def Jam job during 2017 at a time Eminem had dialed down his activity, and since then the rapper has released three albums — including this year’s surprise Music To Be Murdered By, which is his 11th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 — and returned to live performing in 2018 and 2019. 


An official announcement of the news is expected next week. Rosenberg declined to comment.

Rosenberg’s appointment at Def Jam, succeeding Steve Bartels, was announced Aug. 1, 2017, and he assumed the position at the start of 2018, telling Billboard that “the time is really great to be able to mold the brand and return it to its proper identity as the greatest hip-hop label of all time.”

During his tenure, he oversaw No. 1 albums from the likes of Logic (Bobby Tarantino II and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and Kanye West (Ye and Jesus Is King), as well as hits from YG, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Jeezy and YK Osiris.

Currently, the label is in the midst of rolling out Justin Bieber’s first album in five years, Changes, which is heading for a debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week.

Last year, Rosenberg acknowledged going on “a signing frenzy” when he started at the label, but subsequently overhauling Def Jam’s A&R department and “really narrowing” the signing process. “It’s quality over quantity at this point,” he said. “We have a lot of acts now that we really need to drill down on and get the best out of them and get them moving forward. I think we released a lot of great music and signed a lot of great new artists. The success and the peaks were incredible. I feel fortunate to be able to experience all of it, but it’s…extremely challenging.”