Outgoing YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl has been chosen to replace Stephen Cooper as Warner Music Group’s new CEO, the company announced Wednesday (Sept. 21). Kyncl officially joins WMG on Jan. 1, though he’ll share CEO duties with Cooper for his first month. Starting Feb. 1, he’ll become sole CEO of WMG and will take over Cooper’s seat on WMG’s board of directors.
As previously reported, WMG was drawn to Kyncl’s background in tech, most recently a 12-year tenure overseeing partnerships and operations at YouTube and previous stints at Netflix and HBO.
Kyncl’s name surfaced as a potential successor shortly after Cooper announced his resignation in June, though at the time he was considered a long shot given his then-active role at YouTube. But odds that he was a leading candidate escalated in August when he announced his imminent departure from YouTube after a dozen years at the massive multi-media company.
“Music is an incredible creative force, with an unmatched ability to bring emotions, build communities and propel change,” Kyncl said in a statement. “We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible in recognizing music’s true power, value and reach. Thanks to Steve and his team, WMG is very well positioned for a future of serving artists and songwriters, as well as their fans. I’m looking forward to partnering with Max [Lousada], Guy [Moot], Carianne [Marshall], and all of the company’s leadership, and I thank WMG’s Board of Directors, Len, and Steve, for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at this iconic company.”
At YouTube, Kyncl has overseen the company’s expansion from mere video hosting platform to becoming one of the most essential parts of the creator economy, helping to forge numerous creative and commercial partnerships and the launch of subscription services including YouTube Music and YouTube Premium. Prior to joining YouTube in 2010, he spent seven years at Netflix where he also shepherded a monumental transition — in that case, from DVDs-by-mail to streaming.
“Robert is the right CEO to meet this moment,” commented Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries. “His command of technology to serve creativity will unlock new opportunities at scale for artists, songwriters and their teams. He sees over the horizon to find ways to make world-class entertainment accessible for all.”
Appointed in the summer of 2011 following the company’s purchase by Access Industries, Cooper has steered WMG during an unpredictable time for the music industry — namely the transition to streaming from a tanking model dependent on physical and downloads — and is credited with leading a series of smart tech investments that helped drive the company back to profitability. WMG went public in 2020 and Cooper is now the longest-serving CEO in company history, a period in which he led the company back to profitability and a bump in market share, including a 22% growth in revenue in 2021 alone.
In a prepared statement, Cooper called Kyncl a “fantastic choice” as his successor.
“He’ll have world-class partners in WMG’s senior management and global team,” Cooper said. “I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished together, attracting and nurturing amazing artists and songwriters, while leading the industry in the use of new technologies and the expansion into emerging markets. After a smooth handover with Robert is complete, I’m looking forward to becoming a full-time fan of the best team in the business.”
Blavatnik also thanked Cooper for his leadership. “It would be difficult to overstate our gratitude to Steve for all his expertise and hard work,” he added. “He has done an exceptional job driving the company from decline to growth and spearheading its 2020 IPO. He has established a strong management team and culture, and his tenure at WMG will benefit the music ecosystem for years to come.”