Is Cooper deluded enough to think he can run the show himself, and persuade the members of Cohen’s executive team to transfer their loyalty to him?


An Eventful Week Found UMG Finally Getting EMI, Lyor Cohen Out at WMG, Daniel Glass Continuing His Phenomenal Second Act and a Bunch of High-Profile Execs in Limbo, as the Record Biz Undergoes Yet Ano
Now that the major-label sector has been essentially boiled down to a Big Two, some industry observers feel that Warner Music will be even more marginalized by Lyor Cohen’s abrupt departure last week. If Len Blavatnik and Stephen Cooper don’t replace him with a music insider, most believe WMG will be considerably weaker. After all, he assembled Warner’s entire team on the recorded-music side and was involved in all the big-picture decisions at the company.

On the other hand, he probably won’t be missed by the likes of Green Day, Linkin Park, Muse, The Black Keys, the Chili Peppers or Bruno Mars, among others; indeed, they may not even realize he’s gone. According to WMG insiders, very few of the big artists at the company had much of a relationship with Cohen, who removed himself from Warner’s day-to-day operations several years ago. Instead, he’s been flying 38,000 feet above the artists’ radar, jet-setting around the world and hobnobbing with billionaires.

As for speculation about Cohen’s next move, there is no gig for the wily one at UMG or Sony Music—and that information comes from the highest level of each company. Could Cohen and his former associate Jay-Z be quietly planning to do something together, either inside or outside of Roc Nation? For now, Cohen has taken residence in the N.Y. offices private equity firm TOMS Capital LLC, headed by another of his billionaire buddies, Israeli hedge-fund manager Noam Gottesman, where he’s thought to be forming a talent management company that would serve as an intermediary between artists and their labels.

Is Cooper sticking around for the long haul as Warner CEO, despite widespread assumptions to the contrary based on his track record as a short-term fixer of troubled businesses? And is he as intelligent as those who have had dealings with him claim? Will Cooper persuade Blavatnik to buy Parlophone and dramatically strengthen WMG’s European operations? Parlophone would also help Warner’s share in the U.S. by virtue of the addition of Coldplay, and in the U.K. with acts like the Pet Shop Boys, Sigur Ros, Jonsi, Tinie Tempah and Conor Maynard. Additionally, WMG might target some of the catalogs in the divestment package, including those of David Guetta and Radiohead.

What’s Parlophone’s value, and how much of a discount will Universal have to give in what appears to be a buyers’ market? Warner could find itself bidding against BMG, but only if Bertelsmann and Hartwig Masuch can convince joint-venture partner KKR to overcome its reluctance to get into the frontline business. KKR will want to sell its holdings here eventually, as the company’s business model dictates, so if Bertelsmann is willing to buy out KKR sooner than later at a sizeable profit to the private equity firm, BMG might be able to get around the present problem.

Sony is believed to be only mildly interested in Parlophone or any other major divestiture, and then only if it could get the label at a heavily discounted number. While billionaire Ron Perelman is believed to be interested, he doesn’t qualify as a buyer per the EU edict that Parlophone be sold to an entity that already owns major music assets. Will Perelman hook up with one or more U.K. or European indies and make a run?

Speaking of indies, did Martin Mills improve his lot in any way by his vociferous opposition to the merger? Inquiring minds want to know. Reports are circulating that the Beggars boss employed some unusually strong leverage to get Impala members to vote his way on the issue.

Who will Cooper call on to run the teams that Cohen has put in place? Roger Faxon continues to claim he isn’t taking the job, and Roger Ames insists those rumors of his return to WMG are rubbish, explaining that the salmon fishing is too enjoyable. Most believe that Julie Greenwald will end up with Cohen and Craig Kallman will transition to UMG or Sony when their respective deals expire in the near future.

Or is Cooper deluded enough to think he can run the show himself, and persuade the members of Cohen’s executive team to transfer their loyalty to him? If so, he’ll be a decided underdog in the competition with Sony and Universal, which are led by savvy, experienced music executives in Doug Morris and Grainge. Such a move would in all likelihood make Cooper look not so smart, as his is name added to the list of money men who screwed the pooch while trying and failing to be the man—a rogues’ gallery that includes Hands, Leoni-Sceti, Schmidt-Holtz, Fuchs, Morgado, Lack, Fifield, Dornemann, Semel & Daly and Nicoli. All of the above thought they were smarter than the music executives who worked under them and loved the idea of being rock stars, not realizing how clueless they were or how ridiculous they looked.

Columbia’s 11% new-release marketshare year-to-date continues to dominate, as Rob Stringer and Steve Barnett hit home runs at a record-setting pace. Thanks primarily to Columbia’s dynamic duo, Universal pre-EMI merger has been locked in a head-to- head battle with Sony. Post-merger, it looks like UMG’s share will remain south of 40% until Lucian Grainge and his team rebuild Capitol and Virgin in the U.S. Lots of chatter over which executive Grainge will tap for the gig to run EMI in North America, but most believe that person will reside in the iconic Capitol Tower.

If Columbia wasn't having such a historic year, Monte Lipman’s career-best run at Republic, which continues to break acts and sell tonnage, would put it in the lead in the 2012 marketshare race with its robust 7.5%. What’s more, Taylor Swift’s Red has a shot at pushing Republic’s share north of 8% by year’s end, making Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta even wealthier.

Not to be outdone by Borchetta and red-hot wunderkind Scooter Braun is Daniel Glass, whose Mumford & Sons sophomore album has all the earmarks of a multi-platinum monster. Glassnote’s distribution deal with RED is up soon, and most expect the indie label’s next deal to redefine the model, as Glass reinvents himself in what has to be one of the most remarkable turnaround stories of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, RCA is finally getting some of the heat Peter Edge and Tom Corson have been looking for with back-to-back chart-toppers from Dave Matthews Band and P!nk. The latter’s surprisingly strong first-week number of 281k was a better than 25% over the projection, a rare feat these days, which had champagne corks popping at Edge and Corson’s offices at 550 Madison. This looks like the start of a Q4 hot streak for RCA, with great expectations for Alicia Keys, Ke$ha and Christina Aguilera, all of whom are beginning their rollouts on extremely positive notes, thanks in large part to promotion topper Joe Riccitelli, the straw that stirs the drink at Nipper.

Names in the rumor mill: Irving Azoff, Cliff Burnstein & Peter Mensch, Dave Holmes, Pat Magnarella, John Branca, Max Hole, David Kassler, Laura Swanson and Brenda Romano.
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