UPDATED: Atlantic UK president Ben Cook announced today that he is stepping down from his post due to an “offensive” appearance as a member of Run-DMC at a birthday party seven years ago. Parlophone co-president Mark Mitchell will take on the leadership of the label on an interim basis.
“It is with great sadness that today I announce I am stepping down as President of Atlantic Records, UK,” he said in a statement. “Seven years ago, at a birthday party where guests were asked to come dressed as their favorite musical icon, I came as a member of Run-DMC. Late last year rumors began to circulate about my appearance at that event, many of which are simply untrue. While my intention was to honor a musical hero, I recognize my appearance was offensive and I made a terrible mistake.” Presumably his outfit included blackface.
“As a consequence of this, I readily agreed to disciplinary actions by my employer last year,” he continues. “Since then however, allegations surrounding the party have continued to be made against me. Moreover, they have been used against a wonderful company and the label I love. I have therefore come to the conclusion that I should make this statement and step down, with immediate effect.”
A statement from Warner Music said only: “Ben Cook is leaving Atlantic UK and this will be his last week in the office.” On Thursday, the company denied a British tabloid report that rapper Stormzy had played a role in Cook’s departure. “That’s simply not true,” a Warner rep said. “No artists were involved in our decision-making.”
While photos of Cook’s costume have not yet surfaced online, rumors about it have been circulating in the UK for several weeks.
Cook had been with Atlantic for 12 years and was named president in 2014. He had previously run the company’s Asylum imprint, where he played a pivotal role in the success of that company’s biggest artists, including Ed Sheeran, along with Stormzy, Clean Bandit, Rudimental and Anne-Marie.
Cook’s statement concludes:
“I am devastated that this mistake has caused upset and has called into question my commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, values which I have championed throughout my career. I have learned a great deal from this event and will resolutely continue to champion these values moving forward.
“It has been an incredible privilege to have worked with the immensely talented artists, managers and team at Atlantic and the wider Warner family.
“I unreservedly apologise to anyone who has been hurt.”