UPDATED: Jon Platt will step down from his post at the helm of Warner/Chappell Publishing by the end of this year and assume the top job at Sony/ATV, sources close to the situation confirmed to Variety. A rep for Sony/ATV, which since 2007 has been run by legendary publisher Martin Bandier — Platt’s former boss at EMI Music Publishing — declined comment, although sources have said for some time that Bandier’s contract is up in April of next year.
The moves are major ones, as observers have long speculated about who will succeed the 77-year-old Bandier at the world’s largest music publisher. Sources say that Platt and fellow former EMI colleague Jody Gerson (who left Sony/ATV in 2014 to become CEO of Universal, the other major music group’s publishing division) parted ways with Bandier because, while both were tipped to succeed him, he seemingly had no plans to step down. Many had expected Guy Moot, head of Sony/ATV’s U.K. office and the company’s worldwide president of creative, to take the helm, but that now seems less likely.
A source tells Variety that Warner top management will take a breath before deciding on Platt’s successor. While former SONGS Publishing partner Carianne Marshall, whom Platt recently named COO, is under consideration, she is not a shoo-in. Still, it is possible that at this time next year, none of the three major music groups’ publishing divisions will be headed by a white male.
“As some of you have heard from Jon Platt, he will be leaving Warner/Chappell before the end of this calendar year,” reads a memo from Warner Music chief Steve Cooper. “An announcement will be made in due course about where he’s headed.
“Warner/Chappell is a very different company than the one he joined in 2012, and he leaves it well positioned for continued growth and change. Our songwriters’ success in shaping the hits of today and the sounds of tomorrow is attracting a wealth of creative talent at all stages of their careers. At the same time, our outstanding global team is growing its reputation for always backing our songwriters with integrity and ambition.
“While we identify a new CEO, Jon will work with COO Carianne Marshall and the senior management team to ensure a smooth transition. With the Warner/Chappell U.S. team’s upcoming move to our new LA HQ, we have a great opportunity to build on our strong momentum.”
Platt said in a memo, “Our songwriters have become the standard for creative excellence. Our team has built Warner/Chappell into the strongest company it’s ever been. We’ve done it together, and we’ve done it our own way. I have no doubt that you can reach even higher.
“WMG is an amazing company. I’ve grown so much in my time here, not only as a music executive, but as a leader. I’ll be forever grateful to Steve Cooper and [Warner Music owner] Len Blavatnik for their belief in me, and for their support. Most importantly, I want to thank you – all of you around the world – I am humbled by the support and trust you’ve so generously given me.”
Platt has indeed turned Warner/Chappell into a powerhouse since he joined the company in 2012 — in the third quarter of 2017, the company became the first publisher (and thus far the only one) to break Sony/ATV’s five-year consecutive run at the top of Billboard’s Publisher’s Quarterly chart. Platt joined the company in 2012 after 17 years at EMI, where his signings included Jay-Z, Beyonce, Diddy, Drake and many others — several of whom followed him to Warner/Chappell (along with Shawn Mendes, Lin Manuel Miranda, DJ Khaled, Rihanna and more). He was named chairman/CEO in 2015. While he tends to prefer working behind the scenes, Platt will take center stage on Oct. 11 as the designated recipient of the 2018 City of Hope Spirit of Life award, which will be presented to him by his friend and longtime artist Jay-Z.
If Bandier is indeed leaving Sony/ATV, over the past 11 years he has built the company into what is arguably the most powerful music-publisher in history. It has more than 3.5 million songs by artists including Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Drake, and had a share in each No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for a solid year (from May 2017 until May 2018).
The company looks likely to grow even bigger as it lines up the purchase of 60% of another company Bandier significantly strengthened, EMI Music Publishing; combined with Sony/ATV’s existing shares in the company (which include 10% recently acquired from the Michael Jackson estate), if approved the deal will give it 100% ownership of the publishing giant. Last year, Bandier extended Sony/ATV’s administration deal with the Jackson estate, which includes the late artist’s work as well as the Sly and the Family Stone and Gamble and Huff catalogs, and the company also recently signed star rapper Cardi B and extended its deals with Pharrell Williams and “Despacito” artist Luis Fonsi.