Former Warner Bros. Records chairman-CEO Tom Whalley is returning to Universal Music Group with Seven Four Ent., a new joint venture with Universal Republic Records.

Move was announced jointly on Thursday by Island Def Jam Music Group & Univeral Republic chairman-CEO Barry Weiss and Universal Republic chairman-CEO Monte Lipman.

A&R dynamo Whalley’s imminent return to the Universal fold had been widely rumored last year. He had distinguished himself as a founding exec and later president at Interscope Records, which moved to UMG from Warner Music Group in 1995. Some believed he would be brought in to head Capitol Records after the completion of UMG’s acquisition of EMI’s label assets.

After nine years at Warner Bros., Whalley exited the label in a major executive restructuring in September 2010, which saw former Warner Music Group chief creative officer and top producer Rob Cavallo installed as chairman (Daily Variety, Sept. 15, 2010).

UMG chairman-CEO Lucian Grainge said in a statement, “As we continue to expand opportunities for new artists and their music, Tom and his label are a natural fit. His renowned ability to spot new talent and work in true partnership with artists complements the creative vision that Barry, Monte and I share for our East Coast company.”

Weiss added, “Tom is a fearless creative executive, respected industry-wide for his A&R instincts and great artistry. He has been responsible for the breakout success of many of the world’s most exciting, original artists and we are delighted to be partnering with him on the launch of Seven Four Ent.”

Whalley boasts a long history of A&R-driven successes over several labels.

At Warner Bros., he was instrumental in signing such top acts as Michael Buble, the White Stripes, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold and Big & Rich. Label also witnessed hits under his aegis by Josh Groban, Linkin Park, Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Seal and Faith Hill, plus such veteran signees as Madonna, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty.

His signings at Interscope from 1990-2001 included Tupac Shakur, Nine Inch Nails, the Wallflowers, Primus and Smash Mouth.

He previously served as head of A&R, where he worked with Bonnie Raitt, Poison, Crowded House and the Beastie Boys. He began his career at Warner Bros., where his acts included Modern English and the Cure.