At the Grammy Awards in L.A. this weekend, there was one unexpected industry plot twist being talked about in hushed circles.
Multiple sources have told MBW that respected entertainment and tech exec Michael Lynton is joining the Warner Music Group board of directors as its non-Exec Chairman.
The former Sony Entertainment CEO, and current Chairman of Snap, will work with a group of ten other WMG board members. These include owner Len Blavatnik, plus CEO Steve Cooper, and CEO of Recorded Music Max Lousada, as well as figures like Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Axel Springer and economist Noreena Hertz.
A non-Exec role like this is traditionally advisory, and it’s easy to see why Warner would be attracted to Lynton’s expertise. As the music business continues to diversify and grapple with new types of content, Lynton has a varied career across film, music, media and technology. Blavatnik and Cooper will already know Lynton well, as Access Industries, Blavatnik’s investment vehicle, also owns a stake in Snap.
Lynton arrives at a time when Blavatnik must be happy with the major’s performance.
Last year, WMG hit $4 billion in annual revenue. It’s also enjoying a strong start to 2019: WMG just celebrated its first billion dollar quarter in recorded music, during the same week that its artists won some hotly-contested Grammys like Best New Artist (Dua Lipa) and Best Rap Album (Cardi B’s Invasion Of Privacy).
Last month, WMG CEO Steve Cooper named Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall as co-Chairs of Warner/Chappell and continues to place big bets via acquisitions like that of merchandise retailer EMP. Cooper himself recently became the only major music CEO on the Board of the prestigious Paley Center for Media, alongside power players from Disney, Vivendi, HBO and others.
With MBW speculating that Universal’s potential valuation of $42 billion will ignite a major labels sales frenzy, are there more acquisitions on the horizon for Warner? Whichever direction Blavatnik and his board decide to take the company, Lynton will no doubt offer some valuable advice.
UPDATE: Warner has now confirmed Lynton’s arrival on its board.
Len Blavatnik, Chairman & Founder of Access Industries, said: “Michael’s accomplished career across music, film, TV, publishing, and social media brings a valuable perspective to the WMG Board. He joins a group of experienced advisors who together will help chart the future of the company.”
WMG CEO Steve Cooper commented: “Michael’s global expertise will make him a tremendous asset as we explore new business opportunities and pioneer a new definition of what a music company can achieve. I’m looking forward to working with him and the entire Board to continue the company’s evolution.”
Michael Lynton noted: “I’m honored to be joining the WMG Board at this transformational time in the music and entertainment world. WMG has a reputation as an agile, independent-minded, and artist-friendly company, and it will be a pleasure to work with Len, Steve and the rest of my new colleagues on the Board.”
Michael Lynton began his media career in 1987, when he joined the Walt Disney Company and launched Disney Publishing. From 1992 to 1996, he served as President of Disney’s Hollywood Pictures. In 1996, he was named Chairman & CEO of Pearson plc’s Penguin Group, where he extended the Penguin brand to music and the internet. Four years later, he joined Time Warner, holding the posts of CEO of AOL Europe, President of AOL International, and President of Time Warner International.
In 2004, Lynton became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, with oversight of the company’s global motion picture, television, digital content, home entertainment, and studio operations. In 2012, he was named CEO of Sony Entertainment Inc., adding Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing to his responsibilities. In 2017, he left Sony to become Chairman of Snap Inc., creators of the Snapchat mobile app.
Lynton currently serves on the Board of Snap, Inc., Pearson plc., and Ares Management, L.P. He is also a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers and serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate, and the Rand Corporation. Lynton holds a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard College and received his M.B.A. from Harvard University.
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