With the announcement final week that Stephen Cooper could be stepping down from his position as CEO of the Warner Track Workforce by way of the tip of 2023, trade hypothesis has ramped up round who would possibly exchange him.
Cooper took over WMG in the summertime of 2011 at a time when the corporate and the track enterprise at huge have been in very other puts than they're now: trade revenues have been tanking for a decade without end; Spotify had introduced in the US only a month prior, with streaming nonetheless a speculative structure; Warner was once a newly personal corporate beneath the umbrella of its then-new proprietor, Len Blavatnik’s Get entry to Industries; and the track workforce, as with a lot of the recorded-music sector on the time, was once suffering. Cooper on the time was once chairman of the corporate’s board and had a background in turning suffering companies round, with stints at MGM, Hawaiian Telecom and LyondellBasell Industries N.V., in addition to in personal fairness and fiscal advisory — however, crucially, no document label revel in, making him moderately of a left-field selection to steer the main label.
However Cooper, now 75, was once a success however, main a chain of sensible tech investments and serving to go back the corporate to profitability, in the long run permitting it to move public in 2020 — and turning into WMG’s longest-serving CEO within the procedure. A number of resources who spoke to Billboard on situation of anonymity mentioned that Cooper’s unpredictable variety to steer the corporate 11 years in the past leaves the door open to the potential for some other less-obvious candidate being selected this time round, too.
In his memo to personnel saying the scoop final week, Cooper mentioned he had “knowledgeable Len and our Board of Administrators that we will have to start the seek for my successor,” noting that they might “be taking a look at applicants each internally and externally.” And whilst one former government recognizes that, given WMG is a public corporate now, Blavatnik gained’t have the one say within the procedure, as the corporate’s greatest shareholder he most probably could have the most powerful voice within the room in making that call. And that implies Cooper, given his transformative achievements for Blavatnik, could have main sway.
That, on the other hand, doesn’t essentially rule out an government with a extra ingenious, music-business background taking the highest process, and a number of other resources inform Billboard that CEO of recorded track Max Lousada could be an apparent main candidate internally. “Max has needed to dig himself out of a couple of holes, however he's now doing lovely smartly; he's sensible and suave organizationally, and has already felt the force of operating for a publicly-traded corporate,” one track trade government acquainted with the corporate says, including that “the WMG personnel is most probably rooting for Max to get it.”
One former insider speculates that if Lousada have been the primary option to get the process — or, for that topic, some other inner candidate that was once being thought to be — the corporate would have introduced it already and for the reason that candidate an opportunity to observe and be told sitting at Cooper’s aspect throughout the remainder of his tenure with the corporate. However some other track government dismisses that concept, announcing the corporate could be sensible to move via a radical vetting procedure, and would most probably lean against bringing in an outdoor candidate, or a member of the WMG board, reasonably than dipping into its track government ranks with any person like WMG leader virtual officer/government vice president of industrial construction Oana Ruxandra, in spite of her being very talked-about and smartly revered internally. (Atlantic Data co-chairman Julie Greenwald, some of the revered and a success leaders within the enterprise lately, has, consistent with more than one folks’s hypothesis, been introduced larger jobs and grew to become them down prior to now.)
Participants of the Warner Track Workforce’s board of administrators may additionally fill the position, those executives say, together with chairman Michael Lynton, who was once up to now CEO of Sony Leisure and is lately chairman of Snap Inc., even though one particular person shot that down as not likely. Every other candidate might be Ceci Kurzman, who labored at Sony for a number of years and based ability control company Nexus Control, and is extensively thought to be being extremely proficient and certified for the placement — she additionally has an funding background — and any person who's energetic in her position at the board.
Person who has emerged as most probably at the shortlist is Nancy Dubuc, an established tv government who's lately the CEO of Vice and chair of Warner’s audit committee, giving her a data of the corporate’s price range. One government famous that if Dubuc have been to take excessive process, it will coincide with some other exec with an artistic background — like Lousada, for example — additionally getting a promotion, to pair a enterprise and artistic government atop the corporate. Two of Warner’s flagship labels, Warner Data and Atlantic Data, have co-chairmen main them that pair pros with A&R backgrounds and advertising and marketing or operations backgrounds, a style that it’s instructed the mother or father workforce may practice in some style — if now not with Dubuc, then most likely with some other exec with a powerful finance historical past, given Get entry to’ previous trend of scrutinizing even small monetary main points.
If the corporate have been to move with any person from out of doors the corporate’s ranks or board, some suppose Jon Platt, who spent seven years operating for Cooper at Warner/Chappell Track Publishing, first as president of ingenious in North The united states, then as chairman and CEO, ahead of leaving to take over Sony Track Publishing originally of 2019, will have to be thought to be. Platt is extensively revered around the track trade and inside of Warner as a pace-setter, and was once a favourite of Cooper, who let him out of his contract two years early to take the process at Sony. However one government means that the Warner board would possibly now not cross with a publishing government, whilst some other issues out that Platt’s present process — working the most important track writer on the earth, with no need to care for the restraints and company scrutiny that include working a publicly-traded corporate — would possibly imply he’s now not .
Every other out of doors track government whose identify got here up a number of occasions was once John Janick, the chairman/CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M, whose management of the label has grew to become it into track’s marketplace proportion chief, with a longer monitor document of each operating with lengthy established artists and breaking new acts. However a number of folks instructed that, in spite of Janick’s spectacular monitor document — and his historical past at Warner as a founding father of the Fueled Through Ramen label — Lousada’s standing as a present insider would probably put him above Janick within the pecking order. (A supply on the subject of Janick additionally says that he's now not taking a look to make a transfer.) One UMG chief whose contract would coincide with the WMG position’s get started date could be Sir Lucian Grainge, whose deal runs during the finish of 2023, even though that may in reality be a surprise to the device.
Others counsel that an exterior candidate with a mixture of track, tech and enterprise backgrounds would lead the listing of nominees — making the potential for Lyor Cohen’s go back to the Warner fold an intriguing chance. When Cooper took over in 2011, Cohen held the similar position that Lousada holds now, and many of us internally anticipated him to get the highest process on the time — just for Blavatnik to show to the fewer apparent candidate in Cooper. One former government issues out that Cohen has long gone from luck to luck since leaving Warner in 2012: First development a a success unbiased label in 300 Leisure (which was once not too long ago purchased by way of WMG for $400 million) after which main YouTube’s efforts at repairing family members with the track trade in his position as its international head of track, which he took on on the finish of 2016.
In a an identical vein, Amazon’s vice president of track Steve Increase has the combo of tech and track backgrounds and relationships — each throughout the trade and at the board — to be a possible are compatible, consistent with two folks. Roger Lynch — lately CEO of Condé Nast, however whose background comprises working Pandora and main its acquisition by way of SiriusXM — was once additionally instructed as any person who combines the essential attributes to care for the process.
Taking into consideration there are simply 3 positions like this to be had on the earth main a big track corporate, the method is perhaps a long one. With Cooper laying out an 18-month timeline to enact the transition, the recommendation is that the board is more likely to take its time. And given Blavatnik’s monitor document, a number of resources stressed out that the perhaps possibility might not be the path that the board takes, even though it’s all at the desk.