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KYNCL TAKES THE REINS AT WARNER MUSIC GROUP

Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s former chief business officer, will succeed Steve Cooper as Warner Music Group CEO. He starts on New Year's Day.

Kyncl and Cooper will serve as co-CEOs for the month of January. As of 2/1, Kyncl will become sole CEO of WMG and assume Cooper’s seat on WMG’s board of directors.

“Robert is the right CEO to meet this moment,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of WMG owner Access Industries. “His command of technology to serve creativity will unlock new opportunities at scale for artists, songwriters and their teams. He sees over the horizon to find ways to make world-class entertainment accessible for all.

“It would be difficult to overstate our gratitude to Steve for all his expertise and hard work. He has done an exceptional job driving the company from decline to growth and spearheading its 2020 IPO. He has established a strong management team and culture, and his tenure at WMG will benefit the music ecosystem for years to come.”

Cooper, 75, announced that the board had begun an executive search this summer and predicted the change would occur late in 2023. He called Kyncl “a fantastic choice.”

“He’s a hugely talented executive who’ll bring dynamic energy to WMG and the music-entertainment business," said the outgoing CEO. "He’ll have world-class partners in WMG’s senior-management and global team. I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished together, attracting and nurturing amazing artists and songwriters while leading the industry in the use of new technologies and the expansion into emerging markets. After a smooth handover with Robert is complete, I’m looking forward to becoming a full-time fan of the best team in the business.”

Like Cooper, Kyncl arrives as the captain of a major label group with no direct music-industry experience, though he was a key figure in negotiating deals with labels for YouTube.

His significant jobs have been at Netflix, where he was charged with acquiring films and shows from Hollywood studios during his 2003-10 run, and YouTube, where his strategy was to thumb his nose at studios’ output.

During his 12-year tenure at the latter, he made a name for himself convincing the higher-ups that YouTube needed to be in the content-creation business; while he was the streamer’s first Hollywood hire, he was nonetheless the one who advocated that the company scrap the traditional Hollywood playbook and instead invite video creators to build their own channels on the site. The Czech-educated SUNY New Paltz and Pepperdine graduate left YouTube in late August.

“Music is an incredible creative force, with an unmatched ability to bring emotions, build communities and propel change,” Kyncl said. “We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible in recognizing music’s true power, value and reach. Thanks to Steve and his team, WMG is very well positioned for a future of serving artists and songwriters as well as their fans. I’m looking forward to partnering with Max [Lousada], Guy [Moot], Carianne [Marshall] and all of the company’s leadership, and I thank WMG’s board of directors, Len and Steve for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at this iconic company.”

Kyncl was barely into his YouTube job in 2011 when Blavatnik tapped Cooper, a turnaround specialist, to lead WMG. He planned to stay in the job for only a year but guided WMG into the streaming era, led its early adoption of new technologies and took it public in 2020. Along the way, WMG’s global recorded-music marketshare increased by nearly 11%. WMG has posted seven consecutive years of revenue growth, rising 19% in fiscal 2021 to $25.9b.

In recent years, Cooper has touted WMG’s expansion into new platforms that generate revenue for the label and its artists—social media, gaming and the metaverse—areas of expertise for Kyncl.

“We’re building on our reputation as the fastest-moving, most forward-thinking major,” Cooper wrote in his farewell email, which he sent out in June. “We’re just at the beginning of a new golden age of music, and WMG is beautifully positioned for continued growth and innovation, with new opportunities emerging every day."

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