Warner Music Group boss Steve Cooper is officially stepping down in 2023. The search for his successor has begun.

Steve Cooper, the CEO of Warner Music Group, has officially announced he is stepping down from the leadership position.

Cooper won’t be going anywhere for some time yet, though.

The US-based executive has told staff in an email today (June 22), first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that he has instructed the WMG board to begin a search for his successor.

This process is expected to be complete in the second half of 2023 (next year).

MBW understands that Cooper will remain as CEO of Warner Music Group until his successor has been found and hired.

(Update: This has now been confirmed by a Warner SEC filing, which reads: “Mr. Cooper has served as CEO since 2011, and will continue to serve as CEO and director until his replacement is appointed.”)

A candidate to replace Cooper could come from inside or outside of Warner Music Group, said Cooper’s email.

Cooper joined WMG in 2011 following the company’s $3.3bn acquisition by Access Industries.

Access, run by Len Blavatnik, continues to be the majority owner of Warner Music Group, following the music company’s flotation on the NASDAQ stock exchange in June 2020.

In Warner Music Group’s latest full fiscal year – to the end of September 2021 – the company turned over $5.301 billion, up 15% YoY at constant currency.

The year after Cooper took charge of the music company, in fiscal 2012 (the 12 months to end of September 2012), it generated $2.780 billion.

In order words: WMG’s revenues have almost doubled during Cooper’s 11-year run as CEO.

Cooper’s biggest bets as a CEO include WMG’s GBP £487 million acquisition of Parlophone Label Group in 2013.

He’s also been head of Warner Music Group for other major nine-figure acquisitions including Spinnin’ (2017), EMP (2018), and 300 Entertainment (2021).

More recent international moves include Warner’s acquisitions of distribution/services companies Qanawat (EMEA) and Africori (Sub Saharan Africa). 

Cooper is the longest-running CEO in the history of WMG.

Prior to joining Warner in 2011, Cooper served as Vice Chairman and member of the office of Chief Executive Officer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Telcom, amongst other roles.

A corporate turnaround specialist, he also spent spells as CEO at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and as CEO and Restructuring Chief of Enron Corp.

In a Music Business Worldwide interview from 2016, Cooper was asked if he’s more of a businessman or a music man, to which he replied: “I have huge respect for people that have dedicated their entire careers to the music business, but that’s not what I’ve done. I have three rules that have served me well, in business and in life.

“First, have fun, because this isn’t a dress rehearsal. Second, no assholes. That’s in direct correlation to point one. Third, treat people fairly and expect to be treated fairly in return.

“So, I’ve applied those here. Right from the start, I knew better than to get involved in the creative decisions.

“We have a lot of really talented people, and I never second guess them. I just want to create an environment where they can do their best work.”Music Business Worldwide