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Edgar Bronfman Jr. to ankle as WMG chair

Former CEO will remain a director of music giant

Edgar Bronfman, Jr., is stepping down as chairman of Warner Music Group, effective Jan. 31, 2012. He will remain a director of the company.

Bronfman announced the move in an internal memo to WMG employees on Monday morning.

A WMG spokesman had no comment.

It is expected that the company will formally announce Bronfman’s relinquishing of the chairmanship during its earnings conference call on Thursday.

In his communique to staffers, Bronfman said, “My other obligations are beginning to take an inordinate amount of time.” He is a general partner in the private equity firm Accretive, executive chairman of Global Thermostat and chairman of Endeavor Global.

Bronfman moved from CEO to chairman at WMG in August, in an exchange of roles with Stephen F. Cooper (Daily Variety, Aug. 20). At that point, the music firm was actively in the hunt for the assets of EMI Music, which was being auctioned by Citigroup. Cooper is a close associate of Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries purchased WMG for $3.3 billion in July (Daily Variety, July 21).

Bronfman, who spearheaded the acquisition of WMG from Time Warner by a group of private investors in 2004, had long coveted EMI. His exit from the executive suite was seen as inevitable by many after WMG backed away from negotiations to buy EMI, which was split up and sold to Universal Music Group and Sony Corp. of America in November in a deal totaling $4.1 billion (Daily Variety, Nov. 12).

In his e-mail to staff, Bronfman said, “I am so proud of everything that the people of WMG have accomplished. I’m so appreciative of your willingness to embrace new ideas, and the constant energy you dedicated to transforming this company, year-after-year. In fact, Warner Music will always be a very special place for me, and my time as CEO is one of the fondest experiences I’ve ever had and one that I will always cherish.”

He added, “With an ownership group that is positioned to take a long-term view of the company’s growth strategy and artists’ careers, I have no doubt there are exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”

In his own note to employees, Blavatnik said, “When I joined WMG’s Board in 2004, I watched Edgar take a neglected division of Time Warner and turn it into a paradigm of how a traditional media company could redefine itself for the digital age with a culture celebrating innovation and collaboration.

“It was his vision in transforming WMG into a progressive, modern music company that made WMG so attractive to Access. Given that vision and his years of expertise in the industry, as a director at WMG, he will continue to be an important part of our leadership and I look forward to his many future contributions.”