Time Warner boss Steve Ross passes away on Dec. 20; Gerald Levin is the new Chairman/CEO for Time Warner, while Morgado is named Chairman/CEO for then-Warner Music-U.S. label group.


From Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun to Len Blavatnik, a Brief History of the Venerable Music Group
1947: Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler incorporate Atlantic Records, releasing records by blues singers Ruth Brown, Tiny Grimes and Slick McGhee & His Buddies, including the classic “Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee.”

1950: Jac Holzman founds Elektra Records with friend Paul Rickolt on $300 from Holzman’s bar mitzvah money. They put out Appalachian balladeer Jean Ritchie’s Sings Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family, along with records by folkies Theodore Bikel (also an initial investor), Josh White, Glenn Yarbrough, Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton.

1958: Warner Bros. Records organized under ex-Capitol Records exec Jim Conkling. Its first signing is teen idol Tab Hunter and its initial album releases include Dragnet star Jack Webb, Connie Stevens, the Warner Bros. Military Band and one Ira IronstringsMusic for People with $3.98, Plus Tax, If Any.

1960: WB has its first #1 single with the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” and its first chart-topping album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. Mike Maitland is named President of WB Records when Conkling is forced out. Maitland hires Boston DJ Joe Smith as head of national promotion.

1961: Mo Ostin founds Reprise as Frank Sinatra’s WB-distribbed label after singer leaves Capitol. Label releases Sinatra’s Ring-a-Ding-Ding and albums by Sammy Davis Jr. and “Pepino the Italian Mouse” creator Lou Monte.

1962: Satirist Allan Sherman’s chart-topping My Son the Folksinger album spurs a grassroots pop fad.

1963: WB Records and Reprise merge under Maitland.

1965-66: Hit records by Dean Martin, the Kinks, Petula Clark, The Electric Prunes, Don Ho, Nancy Sinatra and the Association.

1967: Warner Bros. bought by Seven Arts, becomes Warner-Seven Arts, which acquires Atlantic Records, with artists such as Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, the Young Rascals, the Troggs, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Booker T and the MGs and the Bar-Kays.

1969: Kinney National Co.’s Steve Ross acquires Warner-Seven Arts, adds it to his empire of funeral parlors and parking lots. Warner Bros. puts out the Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxa, Joni Mitchell’s Clouds, Sinatra’s “My Way” and Alice Cooper’s Pretties for You. WB opens London offices with Ian Ralfini its Managing Director/President. Atlantic does likewise, hiring Phil Carson, who promptly brings in the Virgin label. Atlantic releases first Led Zeppelin album.

1970: Elektra becomes part of Kinney for $10 million, bringing The Doors, Bread, MC5, Nico and The Stooges. Mo Ostin replaces Mike Maitland as head of WB/Reprise Records with Joe Smith his #2.

1971: Kinney mutates into Warner Communications. Nesuhi Ertegun founds WEA International. WEA Corp. distribution established. Records by Crosby, Still & Nash and Derek & the Dominoes (Atlantic); Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Van Morrison and James Taylor (WB); and Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Frank Zappa (Reprise). Atlantic inks the Rolling Stones, release Sticky Fingers on their own label.

1973: Lenny Waronker is named a VP at WB after producing hit records for Gordon Lightfoot, Maria Muldaur, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder. Elektra combines with David Geffen’s Asylum under Geffen, who signs Bob Dylan, names Mel Posner President of combined labels.

1975: Geffen leaves Elektra/Asylum to make movies. Joe Smith named Chairman of EA, with Ostin taking over as Chairman and President of WB.

1976: Seymour Stein’s formerly ABC-distributed Sire Records becomes part of WB, releases The Ramones’ first album.

1977: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, on Reprise, becomes the sixth-largest selling album of all time, with 19 million in the U.S. to date. WB releases Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Comes the Sex Pistols.

1978: Employee count at Warner Music Group is more than 2,000. Record group revenues reach an all-time high of $617 million worldwide.

1979: Atlantic has ABBA, Chic, Foreigner and Yes; Elektra has Queen, The Cars, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon and the Pointer Sisters; WarnersDevo, Rod Stewart and Van Halen, Reprise’s Neil Young and Sire’s Talking Heads.

1980: Stein sells remaining 50% of Sire to WB. David Geffen starts Geffen Records as “Warner Communications’ fourth record company,” inks Donna Summer, John and Yoko and Elton John.

1981: MTV launches as a joint venture between Warner Communications Inc. and American Express.

1982: Atari video game success lifts WCI stock up 30 times over six years earlier. Albums include Prince’s 1999 and Van Halen’s Diver Down.

1983: Elektra is moved from L.A. to N.Y., with Bob Krasnow and Bruce Lundvall in charge. WCI profits from “Recorded Music and Music Publishing” listed at $60 million. WCI sells its two-thirds interest in MTV Networks and stake in Showtime/The Movie Channel to Viacom International for $500 million.

1984: Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Van Halen’s 1984 released.

1986: WEA Manufacturing opens CD plant. Paul Simon’s Graceland, Van Halen’s 5150 on WB; Peter Gabriel’s So on Geffen.

1987: WCI acquires Chappell & Co., becoming world’s largest music publisher, for $285 million, adding 400,000 copyrights to its 300,000.

1988: Robert J. Morgado’s duties expand to domestic labels. Geffen sells Geffen Records to MCA for $545 million in company stock.

1989: Doug Morris is upped from President of Atlantic Records to COO. Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field’s Interscope Records launches, with Atlantic providing $15 million for a 25% ownership, later to climb to 50%. Hit records include Debbie Gibson (Atlantic), Tracy Chapman, the Cure and Deee-Lite (Elektra), Elvis Costello (WB), The B-52s and Chris Isaak (Reprise) and Aerosmith, Don Henley and Whitesnake (Geffen).

1990: Time Inc. merges with WCI. PolyGram buys Island from Chris Blackwell for $300 million. Morris is named Co-Chairman/Co-CEO of Atlantic.

1991: Irving Azoff brings Giant Records into the WB Records fold. Reprise splits off from WB, with Rich Fitzgerald named VP/Director of Promotion.

1992: Time Warner and Madonna announce a 50/50 joint venture, Maverick Records. The deal includes a $5 million advance for every album by the superstar and a 20% royalty rate. “Cop Killer,” a song on Ice-T’s Body Count album on Sire, results in protests at TW’s annual stockholders meeting, which forces the company to drop the rapper. New Media chief Stan Cornyn retires. Time Warner boss Steve Ross passes away on Dec. 20; Gerald Levin is the new Chairman/CEO for Time Warner, while Morgado is named Chairman/CEO for then-Warner Music-U.S. label group.

1993: Dave Mount is named President of WEA, replacing Henry Droz; Warner Music income goes to $643 million. Atlantic inks the Select, Mammoth and Matador labels.

1994: Doug Morris is named Chairman/CEO of Warner Music-U.S. by Morgado, taps Val Azzoli as new President of Atlantic. Morris proceeds to have Krasnow succeeded at Elektra tapping EastWest head Sylvia Rhone as Co-President with Seymour Stein. Mo Ostin announces he’ll leave WB Records when his contract expires at year-end, with Lenny Waronker as CEO, though the latter decides to follow Mo out the door in October. Morgado hand-picks Warner Music U.K.’s Rob Dickins to replace Waronker at WB, but bows to Morris’ decision to name Danny Goldberg Chairman/CEO instead after a near-revolt by the label heads gathered in a nearby hotel. Levin taps Richard Parsons as his #2 man at Time Warner.

1995: Ostin and Waronker sign with Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg’s DreamWorks SKG to start a new record label. Steven Baker is named President of WB; Ex-Sire GM Howie Klein is tapped to head Reprise. Levin fires Morgado, replaces him with 20-year Time Inc. vet and HBO Chairman Michael Fuchs, who, in turn, stunningly dismisses Morris. Goldberg is also forced out at WB, succeeded by Russ Thyret. Fuchs lets Interscope split for Universal, then gets canned himself by Levin and replaced by WB Pictures co-heads Bob Daly and Terry Semel. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is released on Maverick, sells more than 14 million copies.

1996: Warner Bros. re-signs R.E.M., Thyret names Phil Quartararo WB President.

1998: Rhino officially becomes a member of WMG.

1999: Ex-PolyGram executive Roger Ames is hired by Daly and Semel as head of Warner Music International in June. Daly and Semel leave the following month. In Oct., Ames is upped to WMG Chairman/CEO.

2000: Ames names Tom Whalley Chairman/CEO of Warner Bros. Records, to take effect when his Interscope contract is up at the close of 2001.

2001: Time Warner Inc. merges with America Online Inc. WMG forms Warner Strategic Marketing from Rhino. Russ Thyret retires and Howie Klein splits, leaving Phil Q in charge of both Warner and Reprise until Whalley officially takes on the duties of Chairman/CEO in October.

2002: Phil Q leaves Warner Bros. when negotiations for a new contract break down. Ron Shapiro and Craig Kallman are named Co-Presidents of Atlantic Records by Azzoli, while Lava Records expands into a full label within the Group, headed by Jason Flom. AOLTW chief Gerald Levin steps down, passing the torch to Richard Parsons.

2003: WMG sells DVD and CD manufacturing facilities to Canadian Cinram International. Time Warner sells its recorded music and publishing holdings to a group of private equity investment firms headed by Edgar Bronfman Jr. for $2.6 billion.

2004: The WMG acquisition is official. The investor group includes Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners, creating the world's largest privately held independent music company. The company is expected to streamline operations in an effort to save $250-300 million a year and pump up the company for capital markets and expansion. The restructuring was overseen by the Boston Consulting Group, which also worked with Bronfman during Universal’s acquisition of PolyGram. Lyor Cohen is named head of the company’s U.S. division. Rumors immediately start that WMG is looking for a merger with EMI, as Roger Ames ankles the music group to take a consultancy with Time Warner.

2005: Warner Music Group announces it will sell 32.6 million shares at an estimated price of $22 to $24 a share in an IPO. After finally settling for a $17 share price, with shares selling for between $15.75 and its closing price of $16.20, the stock took a battering on Wall Street, though all Bronfman’s partners would eventually make back their original investments. Over the next five years, the stock would drop below $4. Les Bider leaves his post at Warner/Chappell Music, while Jason Flom splits as Atlantic Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, with his Lava label absorbed by the company.

2006: EMI offers WMG $30 a share for the company.

2007: Edgar Bronfman is sued for $100 million by his one-time partner, former Simon & Schuster chief Richard Snyder for acting “dishonorably and unlawfully” by reneging on a promise to compensate him for helping him with his acquisition of Warner Music Group. The WMG-EMI dance lasts through most of the year. Their year-end balance sheet showed them with a 58% drop in net income during Q4 to $5 million, or 3 cents a share, versus $12 million, or eight cents a share, a year earlier.

2008: Warner Music Group Chairman/CEO Edgar Bronfman restructures its executive ranks, establishing an Office of the Chairman comprised of Lyor Cohen and Michael D. Fleisher. Depeche Mode leaves the label, leading a procession that includes AC/DC, the Eagles, Jewel, Madonna and Nickelback.

2009: Warner Music Nashville formed, with veteran WEA sales exec John Esposito at the helm. Longtime exec Kevin Liles splits the company. A dispute preventing its videos from being shown on YouTube is resolved. Rob Cavallo is named Chief Creative Officer at Warner Bros. Records.

2010: Cavallo is upped to Chairman of Warner Bros. Records, with Todd Moscowitz named Co-President/CEO and Livia Tortella Co-President/COO. Tom Whalley and Diarmuid Quinn leave the company.

2011: WMG announces it has retained the investment firm of Goldman Sachs to look into a sale of the company. Ten bidders emerge through three rounds, with Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries the winner at a price tag of $3.3 billion. So, aside from cashing in with their IPO, Bronfman and his partners reap another $700 million from the original price tag of $2.6 billion.

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