Warner Music veteran Cohen to leave company

LOS ANGELES Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:36am IST

Kanye West (L) and Lyor Cohen arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in New York, May 2, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Kanye West (L) and Lyor Cohen arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in New York, May 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Warner Music Group executive Lyor Cohen will resign from the company this month after an eight-year tenure during which he steered the company through a revamp under new ownership and found success with artists from Cee Lo Green to Josh Groban.

Cohen joined Warner Music Group in 2004 and oversaw a restructuring of its recorded music division after investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. acquired the company from Time Warner Inc. He has served as chairman and CEO of recorded music since 2011. He will resign from the company effective September 30.

"While we understand his desire to move on to his next challenge, the enduring success of our recorded music division will serve as a great testament to the progress we've made during Lyor's time at WMG," Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper said in a statement.

Cooper is a turnaround expert who took over day-to-day operations of the company last year, shortly after it was bought by Len Blavatnik's Access Industries in a $3.3 billion deal.

Cohen made his name as president of Def Jam Records from 1988 to 2002, signing acts such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. He also developed rap pioneers including LL Cool J, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.

A source close to Cohen said he was leaving Warner Music Group partly because he wanted to work more directly with musicians after spending recent years in a corporate management job.

In a memo to staff, Cohen said that he could not yet announce his next move but that it would involve "something where I can work my entrepreneurial muscles and partner with artists."

"I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. My happiest days in this business are those when I get to work directly on the development of artists," he wrote.

Under Cohen's stewardship, Warner owned the No. 1 label in the United States for four years between 2004 and 2010, the company said. Warner's recorded music business also rose to the world's third largest, from fourth, in 2007. Successful artists during the time ranged from Nickelback to Jason Mraz.

He also led the company's transition from physical to digital music.

In the company's announcement of his resignation, Cohen said: "To all the artists and employees who live and die for the music every day, and who personally sacrifice for the good of the creative process: 'keep on keepin' on' in the tradition of a company that respects and honors the artistic community."

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Gary Hill and Chris Gallagher)