Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper to Step Down ‘By the End of 2023’

Warner Music
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Warner Music
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Warner Music Group (WMG) CEO Stephen Cooper is officially preparing to step down “by the end of 2023,” the Big Three record label has revealed.

Warner Music detailed the approaching departure of 75-year-old Stephen Cooper – who became CEO of the major label 11 years back – in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing today. According to this concise document, WMG “has begun planning for the succession of” Cooper, who is expected “to serve as CEO and director until his replacement is appointed.”

And as mentioned, said appointment will presumably arrive by next year’s conclusion. Warner Music, which returned to the stock market in June of 2020, is set to search for Cooper’s replacement both internally and externally, per an email that the Gary, Indiana, native sent to employees.

In recent years, Cooper-led Warner Music (which posted relatively modest revenue growth for Q1 2022) has in some ways separated itself from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment with its focus on emerging markets and emerging segments.

Beginning with the former, Warner Music has capitalized upon a streaming-driven income jump by opening offices in Israel, India, Vietnam, and Russia (though the latter division has since been shuttered) since 2020’s start. WMG has also made several plays in Africa’s quick-growing music market, established labels in Southeast Asia and Brazil, and bolstered its position in MENA.

Regarding emerging segments, Warner Music Group is leaning particularly hard into gaming, Web3, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – including with multiple partnerships and investments, virtual concert venues, Peloton gaming experiences, digital avatars, all manner of Roblox events, and much more.

While Stephen Cooper hasn’t benefited from a stock-related windfall as large as that which UMG head Lucian Grainge received, he has recorded healthy post-IPO earnings of his own. During today’s trading hours, Warner Music Group stock (NASDAQ: WMG) dipped slightly from Tuesday’s close, to $25.19 per share.

Stephen Cooper’s retirement wasn’t the only high-profile announcement that Warner Music made today, for execs just hours ago unveiled the rollout of 300 Elektra Entertainment, “a new frontline label group that brings together the multi-genre power of 300 and Elektra.”

WMG, which bought 300 Entertainment for a reported $400 million in December, likewise disclosed that the label group will specifically house “300, Elektra Records, Fueled by Ramen, Roadrunner, Low Country Sound, DTA Records, Public Consumption, Young Stoner Life Records, Sparta, and 300 Studios.”

Nevertheless, higher-ups assured that “300 and Elektra will maintain their independent identities and cultures,” with Rayna Bass and Selim Bouab now serving as 300 co-presidents and Mike Easterlin and Gregg Nadel remaining co-presidents of Elektra.

“We are risk-takers operating with an entrepreneurial and independent spirit,” part of an all-caps mission statement on 300 Elektra Entertainment’s website makes clear. “We add value by offering best-in-class service for our artists and the culture.

“F—k the playbook, we write our own rules. We never check boxes, we always ask the questions why and why not,” the lengthy text proceeds. “We operate with a ‘job is never done’ philosophy. We have the mindset of an independent and the muscle of a major.”