The appointment, which had been rumored, was made by UMG chairman-CEO Lucian Grainge, to whom Barnett will report.
Barnett, who will be based at the Capitol Tower in L.A., was previously co-chairman-COO at Columbia Records.
He will now take management responsibility for the EMI properties acquired by UMG for $1.9 billion in September: Capitol Records, Virgin Records, Blue Note, Astralwerks, Harvest, Capitol Christian Music Group, Caroline and Capitol Studios.
Unlike the 1999 merger of Polygram and UMG, which ultimately melded those two companies’ music holdings, UMG is opting to maintain the EMI labels as a stand-alone unit under Barnett.
Grainge said in a statement: “As we begin to invest in and revitalize EMI globally, the Capitol Music Group, including Virgin, will play a central role in our creative and commercial initiatives. And there is no one better to spearhead this than Steve. His entrepreneurial approach and intuitive ability to build, strengthen and transform artists into powerful global brands has resulted in remarkable success.”
Barnett segues to UMG from Sony Music Entertainment, where he spent 16 years in a variety of senior management roles. At Columbia, he had reported to Doug Morris, who was supplanted as UMG chairman-CEO by Grainge in 2011.
Columbia had witnessed recent success with such acts as Adele, One Direction and Foster the People.
Barnett said: “It was not an easy decision to leave such a successful company as Columbia, with its incredibly talented artists and the team of people who work so hard on their behalf. However, I know that the label is in great hands and I wish them all the best in the future as I move on to my new company home.”
Barnett joined Sony’s Epic imprint in 1996 as senior VP of international and rose to senior VP of worldwide marketing in 1997. After serving as exec VP-general manager, he was named president of Epic in 2004. The following year, he was appointed chairman-COO at Columbia. For four years, he co-chaired the label with producer Rick Rubin, who ankled the company in 2011.