Thomas Coesfeld: ‘I am determined BMG will grow even bigger and more successful under my leadership.’

Earlier today (January 30), BMG announced that its CEO for the past decade-and-a-half, Hartwig Masuch, is to step down from that role at the end of 2023.

Taking Masuch’s place as CEO? BMG‘s current CFO, Thomas Coesfeld, who will be elevated to Chief Executive of the Bertelsmann-owned music company in January 2024.

Subsequent to breaking the news this morning, MBW has obtained two memos from Masuch and Coesfeld respectively sent to BMG’s 1,100 staff members today.

In his memo, Masuch notes that, in years gone by, the compulsory retirement age at Bertelsmann was 60 years old (a policy that famously led to tensions between the firm and a 66-year-old Clive Davis in the late ’90s).

That policy has long been scrapped at Bertelsmann, but at 68, Masuch says his decision to leave his role at BMG “should come as no surprise”, and that “moving on before my 70th birthday was always my intention”.

Masuch reveals that he personally recommended Thomas Coesfeld – who joined BMG as CFO in 2021 – for the top job at BMG.

BMG’s current CEO comments that over the past two years his now-successor has “consistently revealed himself to be an astute, dynamic and strategic leader”.

Coesfeld’s note to staff is, unsurprisingly, largely forward-looking. In it, he says, “I look forward to BMG reaching new heights in the coming years,” adding that he is “determined we will grow even bigger and more successful under my leadership”.

(In H1 2022, according to Bertelsmann figures released last year, BMG generated revenues of EUR €371 million, up 25% year-on-year.)

Coesfeld also pays tribute to the “astonishing job” done by Masuch as leader of BMG since the music firm was re-born in 2008.

You can read both Masuch and Coesfeld’s memos to BMG staff, sent today, below.

Hartwig Masuch, CEO, BMG
Hartwig Masuch

We are writing to you all to give a little more detail about the announcement from Bertelsmann which has just gone out. It marks the latest stage in a long-term succession plan which many of you may already have guessed, but which is today finally confirmed. While it will be some time til it takes full effect, we wanted to let both you – and our clients – know as early as possible in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.

It’s not so long ago that the compulsory retirement age at Bertelsmann was 60 years old. I’m currently looking ahead to my 69th birthday, so it should come as no surprise that today I am announcing I will step down by the end of the year.

You should know that I am genuinely pleased that it is Thomas Coesfeld who will be taking over as my successor. Having worked with him side-by-side for more than two years, I am convinced that he is the right person to lead BMG into the future. He has an instinctive understanding of the levers which drive our business, the new technologies, services and processes we need to deliver for artists, songwriters and rights holders and has consistently revealed himself to be an astute, dynamic and strategic leader. That is exactly why I recommended Thomas to be my successor.

Fourteen years ago, Bertelsmann took a chance in naming a music publisher in his mid-fifties – i.e. me – to lead its new 21st century BMG. Not everyone thought I was the obvious choice. I am confident that in selecting Thomas as my successor, Bertelsmann’s instinct will again prove to be correct.

Naturally it will be strange when the day comes to leave BMG for the last time, but moving on before my 70th birthday was always my intention. There will be plenty of time for goodbyes later. Today the focus is on the future. I am delighted for Thomas – and for BMG.


Thomas Coesfeld

My first thought today is to acknowledge and pay tribute to the astonishing job done by my soon-to-be predecessor Hartwig. I have pointed out before that none of the success enjoyed by the BMG of today was a foregone conclusion. Back in 2008 there were plenty of music industry “experts” keen to share that the new BMG would be a flop.

Instead what we built – in great part thanks to Hartwig – was a thought leader, redefining what a music company could be in the streaming age. Major international music companies did not talk about fairness and transparency until BMG came along. Service was not an agenda item.

In 2023 we have grown to more than 1,100 people – and still hiring. We have a profitable company with a catalogue and roster of many of the greatest names in music. And I am determined we will grow even bigger and more successful under my leadership.

Bertelsmann’s history in music dates back to the formation of the Ariola label back in 1958. It is an indication of just how deeply-rooted music is in the Bertelsmann DNA, and a key reason why Bertelsmann continues to support our growth so enthusiastically.

I have met many of you over the past two-and-a-half years and have been consistently impressed by the quality and commitment of our team. BMG is ultimately a great partnership between you, Bertelsmann and of course our clients.

Taking our inspiration from Hartwig, I look forward to BMG reaching new heights in the coming years.

ThomasMusic Business Worldwide