Sunday, May 26, 2024

Warner Music Heads Edgar Bronfman Jr, Lyor Cohen Cash Out For Millions


The sale of Warner Music Group to Len Blavatnik‘s Access Industries has been for at least two people: Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Lyor Cohen. The deal was only approved by WMG stock holders on July 6th. But through the months of May and June, after the deal was announced, Bronfman and Cohen made millions from stock sales. Warner Music may not have had made any big hits for their artists, but at least the executives have gotten something out of it.

According to Yahoo! Finance, Cohen sold 871,102  shares of WMG stock on June 15th at $8.19 per share.  The total value of the sale is listed at  $7,134,325. Not bad for days’ work. Bronfman has been even busier. He made eight stock transactions from the end of May through the middle of June. All were indirect stock sales. The total value comes to just over $17,000,000.

Cohen and Bronfman’s run at WMG has been underwhelming, as everyone knows. At one point Bronfman lost $30 million on luxury concerts in the Hamptons that nothing to do with anything. WMG has done almost nothing to break new acts and has had few hits during the pair’s rein. Their highlights were Cee Lo Green/Gnarls Barkley and Bruno Mars. This week WMG has its usual minor stake in the pop charts, with just four albums in the top 50–three from their country division and one from Atlantic Records. They also jettisoned both Madonna and Nickelback, two name recording artists. Madonna’s Maverick Records, which had its success with Alanis Morissette, is long gone. Paul Simon took his catalog and split.

Albums from groups like REM, Josh Groban and others were released this year and then fell into the abyss. REM spent three weeks on the charts this spring with a new album that got great reviews and then vanished. Groban did slightly better, but was a disappointment considering his previous Christmas album literally paid Bronfman’s bills in the prior season.

The Bronfman-Cohen WMG legacy does, however, include the fine music renderings of Paris Hilton. They were also going to start a label with gossipeuse Perez Hilton. Neither venture amounted to much.

I’m told that Blavatnik — who has never wanted to merge with EMI or to buy that label– will eventually take the company private, which means all actual information will disappear. WMG now lives on its catalog, mostly Atlantic Records’ history, through their Rhino Records division. In the end this really comes to very little money for the artists. But Bronfman is a billionaire thanks to his family and the sale of Seagram’s. Cohen is reportedly selling one mansion on the upper east side for over $20 million, and is building an estate in the Hamptons. The money from that stock sale will come in handy.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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