Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper will step down next year, he informed staff in an email this morning (June 22). Cooper said he’s told the board of the publicly-traded music group — the third-largest in the world — to begin looking for his successor, with a transition expected by the end of 2023. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal; a copy of the memo was obtained by Billboard.
Cooper took over atop WMG in 2011, after previous CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. oversaw the completion of the sale of the company from Time Warner to Len Blavatnik-led Access Industries. The recorded music business as a whole was amid a steep decline in revenues at the time, and would eventually bottom out in 2014, but the business was also amidst a seismic change — just a month before Cooper became CEO, Spotify debuted in the United States, an event that would help usher in a massive change in fortunes, formats and formulas for the music industry, as Cooper helped lead the company back into the black — Warner Music doubled its revenues under his watch and grew 22% last year alone.
Since 2011, during which time WMG has ushered in superstars such as Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa, the company’s global recorded music market share has grown by 9%, from 15.1% to 16.7% as of last year, according to Music & Copyright.
Cooper, 75, also helped lead the company back to its previous status as a public entity, when it debuted on the New York stock exchange in June 2020. During his tenure — which is also the longest run as CEO of anyone in the company’s history — Warner expanded globally and has leaned into partnerships and investments in tech, Web3 and gaming, while his status as an outsider in the music business allowed him a fresh look at the business.
“We’re just at the beginning of a new golden age of music, and WMG is beautifully positioned for continued growth and innovation, with new opportunities emerging every day,” Cooper wrote in the email to staff.
Read the full memo below.
I wanted you to hear it from me first: I’ve informed Len and our Board of Directors that we should begin the search for my successor. The process of finding a new CEO will take time, and we’ll be looking at candidates both internally and externally. We expect the transition to happen by the end of 2023.
When I arrived here in the summer of 2011, a lot of people figured I’d only be here a year or two. But eleven years later, I’m now six decades into my career, and of everything I’ve done, this is the job I’ve enjoyed the most. I’m proud to say that I’m the longest running CEO in WMG’s history. This is a wonderful company, and I’m excited to help select my successor.
In the meantime, if anyone asks you about this news, you can simply say it’s business as usual. We’re expanding our investment in artists and songwriters. We’re evolving our company culture and developing our dynamic, diverse team. We’re dramatically growing our global footprint and making transformational acquisitions. We’re building on our reputation as the fastest-moving, most forward-thinking major. We’re just at the beginning of a new golden age of music, and WMG is beautifully positioned for continued growth and innovation, with new opportunities emerging every day.
I know Max, Guy, Carianne, and the entire senior management all agree – what matters most is the music. So please, let’s keep up the great work. The main reason I’ve stayed here as long as I have is because of all of you – the brilliant people of WMG. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this amazing team.
Onward, forward, and upward.
This story will be updated.