Legendary Exec Lyor Cohen Leaving Warner Music

After an eight-year reign at one of the industry's biggest jobs, the one-time Def Jam leader is moving on.

Posted: 09/25/2012 12:17 AM EDT

Lyor Cohen — the music-biz titan who helped launch the careers of icons including Run-DMC, the Beastie Boyz and Public Enemy — is stepping down as chairman and CEO of recorded music at Warner Music Group. Cohen had held the powerful post, which gave him authority over labels including Warner Bros., Atlantic and Elektra, since 2004.

Mr. Cohen left with some motivational words for the staffers and musicians he oversaw. “To all the artists and employees who live and die for the music every day,” he said in a statement released yesterday (September 24), “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.” His resignation is effective at the end of the month.


Cohen first rose to fame as manager for Run-DMC and the Beastie Boyz, and right-hand man to Russell Simmons. He ran Rush Management, Simmons' now defunct management firm, before becoming president at Def Jam in 1988, where he helped make LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Ja Rule and several other rap greats household names. In 1999, he became chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam, where he stayed until 2004.

"Lyor Cohen has built something very special here," Stephen Cooper, chief executive officer of Warner Music Group, said in a statement. "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 didn't name Cohen's successor, although insider speculation is focusing on Roger Faxon, who stepped down as EMI's chief executive on Friday.

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