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Stephen Cooper and Edgar Bronfman switch titles at Warner Music

August 19, 2011 |  2:01 pm

Edgar Bronfman Jr A round of post-acquisition musical chairs has left Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Stephen Cooper switching roles at Warner Music Group.

Bronfman is stepping down as chief executive two months after the world's third-largest music company was sold to Access Industries. He will assume the chairmanship from Cooper and focus primarily on Warner's bid to acquire EMI Group, which is currently up for auction.

"I conveyed my strong conviction that my energies on behalf of the company would best be directed toward transformative transactions and long-term strategy," Bronfman wrote in a message Friday to Warner employees, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

In 2004, Bronfman led a private investment group in its acquisition of WMG from Time Warner for $2.6 billion, and, in 2005, led the company's initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

Lyor Cohen, the head of Warner's recorded music business, and Cameron Strang, who runs its publishing arm, Warner Chappell, will now report to Cooper. Cooper has a reputation as a corporate turnaround expert, having been hired in the past to restructure Enron Corp. in 2002, Krispy Kreme Donuts in 2005 and MGM in 2009.

Steve Cooper Warner's new owner -- Access Industries, which is controlled by chief executive Len Blavatnik --  clearly wants someone else in charge of Warner, said Bob Lefsetz, a music industry lawyer and analyst.

"When you buy the car, you're going to want to drive it," Lefsetz said. "And Edgar now gets to ride on the back seat. His days of driving the car are done. Cooper is Blavatnik's man now."

Bronfman, in his email to employees, had a different take of his new role. "I want to thank Len and Access for being amenable to my kicking myself upstairs," he wrote. "After leading the acquisition from Time Warner, transforming the company, and selling it to Access, I believe I can add greater value by addressing the challenges WMG faces on a macro scale, while handing over the day-to-day reins to Steve."

Warner's board also appointed Thomas H. Lee -- a longtime board member whose equity firm, Thomas H. Lee Capital, invested in Warner in 2004 --  as a director.


An EMI sale may raise fewer antitrust red flags than in the past

Warner Music Group sold to Access Industries

Citigroup puts EMI up for sale

-- Alex Pham

Twitter/ @AlexPham

Photos: Edgar Bronfman Jr., top, becomes chairman while Stephen Cooper, bottom left, takes over as CEO of Warner Music Group. Credit: Warner Music Group.