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Lyor Cohen Will Join Warner Music Group As Chairman And CEO Of U.S. Recorded Music
Edgar Bronfman, Jr., said: "Lyor Cohen's role in revolutionizing, transforming and challenging the music industry over the past two decades cannot be overestimated, and I am very pleased that he will be joining Roger and me at Warner Music Group to lead the Company's recorded music operations in the U.S. As one of the most respected executives in the business, Lyor's in-depth experience and proven track record will play an invaluable role in WMG's efforts to become the world's greatest independent music company, and we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for all of us with this great team. "
Lyor Cohen said: "I am so excited about the future of the music business and appreciative for the opportunity to join Warner Music Group. There is no doubt that after 20 years at Def Jam and the last five at Island Def Jam Music Group I will deeply miss all the talented executives and artists. But looking to the future, I am truly looking forward to working again with Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Roger Ames. Both of these incredible executives at different stages in Def Jam's history believed in Russell and me and had the vision to see how important Def Jam would become. Roger, with his belief in our artists and our vision, led the explosive growth and transformation of the label when PolyGram acquired 50% of the label from Sony in 1994. Edgar was also among the first to recognize Def Jam as an important urban music company when, at the helm of Universal, he acquired the remaining 50% in 1999. They trusted in my abilities to architect what today is the new Island Def Jam. Together at WMG we will make a great team."
Roger Ames, Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, said: "Having known and worked with Lyor for more than two decades, I'm delighted that he will be joining Warner Music Group. Lyor has been a driving force behind some of the industry's most successful artists, and his pioneering spirit is a welcome addition at WMG. His energy and legendary creative instincts will be instrumental in sustaining the momentum our U.S. labels have achieved over the past several years, enabling Edgar and me to focus on the future direction of Warner Music Group and the strategic growth of our operations on a global basis."
Scott M. Sperling, Managing Director of Thomas H. Lee Partners, said: "Despite the immediate challenges in this industry that Warner Music Group must address, there continue to be substantial opportunities for growth over the long term. Lyor will be instrumental in helping the Company take advantage of these opportunities and realize its full potential."
As head of Island Def Jam, Lyor Cohen led the growth and cultivation of its world-class roster of artists. As a cultural brand builder, his vision guided each diverse label from Def Jam, Island Records, Roc-A-Fella, Lost Highway, The Inc, American, Def Soul, Def Soul Classics to Roadrunner records, which produced the multi-platinum Nickelback. Currently, the group is exploding as its superstars and a cluster of hot new talent is topping charts and making news.
Last week, Island Def Jam had the #1 most added record at urban radio with Grammy nominated artist Jay-Z and #1 most added at Top 40 and Hot A/C with Fefe Dobson, who is considered one of the year's hottest new stars. Additionally, Roc-A-Fella Records, brought to Def Jam by Cohen, is preparing for the huge debut of Kanye West and Young Gunz.
The label group racked up 27 Grammy nominations this year for its varied artists such as Jay-Z, JaRule, Ludacris, Musiq, LL Cool J, Ashanti, Bon Jovi, Willie Nelson, Nickelback, Lucinda Williams, Kelly Price, Spineshank, Juelz and Joe Budden.
Known for developing and guiding the careers of many early pioneers of rap music, including LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and the Beastie Boys, Cohen is also widely credited with expanding Island Def Jam beyond its hip-hop roots to include a wider range of musical genres. These top artists include Melissa Etheridge, Elvis Costello, Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Everlast, Ryan Adams, Slipknot, Hoobastank, Sum 41 and Slayer.
After becoming President of Def Jam records in 1988, a label founded by Russell Simmons and producer Rick Rubin in 1985, Cohen signed acts such as Jay-Z, JaRule, Redman, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Eric B and Rakim, EPMD, Slick Rick and 3rd Bass to the label. In 1994, Simmons and Cohen sold half of Def Jam to PolyGram for $33 million. In 1999, the remaining half of Def Jam was sold to PolyGram's new owner Universal Music Group, a unit of The Seagram Company, for $130 million.
Prior to Def Jam, Cohen led the day-to-day operations at Rush Management, one of the most innovative and powerful rap and hip-hop management companies to date, which he founded with partner Russell Simmons. Cohen had initially joined Simmons' Rush Entertainment as the road manager for Run DMC and eventually began managing all of the Rush acts on the first national rap tours, including the "Raising Hell" tour of 1986 featuring Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Cohen and Simmons were also partners in clothing enterprise Phat Farm, which was recently sold for $130 million.
Cohen first became involved in the music business nearly two decades ago as a rap pioneer and concert promoter in Los Angeles, where he was one of the first to book and promote such acts as Social Distortion, Fear, Fishbone, Circle Jerks, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Run DMC.