Why Tom Whalley left Warner Bros. Records

EXCLUSIVE: Read his goodbye memo to staff

Tom Whalley is out as Chairman/CEO at Warner Bros. Records.

Warner Bros. announced a new executive team in a press release. Rob Cavallo (currently WMG’s Chief Creative Officer), will serve as Chairman, Todd Moscowitz (currently Executive Vice President of Warner Bros., CEO of WMG’s Independent Label Group and President of Asylum Records) who will serve as Co-President and CEO and Livia Tortella (currently Executive Vice President and General Manager of WMG’s Atlantic Records) will serve as Co-President and Chief Operating Officer.

Chief Operating Officer of Warner Bros. Records and President of Reprise Records Diarmuid Quinn is also stepping down.

Whalley sent the following memo to his staff Tuesday afternoon. (A letter from Lyor Cohen, Warner Music Group's Vice Chairman and CEO, is after the jump.)

To The Warner Bros. Family:
Moving on is never easy, but there always comes a time to do just that. 

The time has now come for me to leave Warner Bros. Records.

I began my career here in 1979 -- in the mail room -- with a dream that someday I might have the honor to serve as Chairman of this great company.  To have had that dream come true for almost a decade has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

During that time, we’ve been guided by Warner Bros. Records’ unique philosophy, one that has helped build our special culture based on the combination of both the most creative executives and most talented artists in the industry.  As a result, even with all the profound changes in our business and in WMG, we've managed to keep the emphasis exactly where it should be kept: on the music.  We’ve never been afraid of music that was provocative or challenging, and we've never stopped nurturing our artists and helping them to build lasting careers. It's what this company has been about for 50 years.  And always will be.

Because we've continually adapted and redefined what it means to be a modern music company, we’ve remained one of the best-performing labels in the industry.  But, most importantly, we've achieved all we have without ever compromising the art.  Or our artists’ vision.  Warner Bros. has remained true to its tradition and for the last nine years, we’ve continued to develop the careers of:  Bjork, Built to Spill, Michelle Branch, Chris Isaak, Deftones, DEVO, Enya, Eric Clapton, Faith Hill, Flaming Lips, The Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day, k.d. lang, Linkin Park, Madonna, Metallica, Neil Young, Pat Metheny, Randy Newman, Randy Travis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Seal, Tom Petty and The White Stripes among others.
And established many great new artists including: Against Me!, Avenged Sevenfold, Big & Rich, The Black Keys, Blake Shelton, Damien Rice, Disturbed, HIM, James Otto, Jason Derulo, Josh Groban, Gucci Mane, Mastodon, Michael Bublé, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Never Shout Never, New Boyz, The Raconteurs, Regina Spektor, Rilo Kiley, Robert Randolph, Serj Tankian, Taking Back Sunday, Tegan and Sera, The Used, The Wreckers and many more.  The fact that we have three albums in the Top Ten this week is but one indication of the strength of our roster and our strong momentum.

This amazing roster is the result of the efforts of each and every one of you, an incredibly talented group of people who -- day in and day out -- constitute the very heart and soul of this company.  An incredibly talented group of people I've been proud to call my colleagues and my friends.

Change is inevitable and more of it is certain to come, but your commitment and your passion will see you through whatever comes your way.  Later today we will share with you the news about the new management team.  But before then, let me say that I wish them only the best of success.  They are going to be leading the greatest team in the business.

I want to sincerely thank Lyor and Edgar for their leadership and their willingness to support my decision.  I also want to thank all of the men and women whom I’ve had the great privilege to work with here through the years. 

Warner Bros. is an incredibly special place, I am so proud of you and the work we’ve done together.

With my appreciation.

Lyor Cohen, Warner Music Group's Vice Chairman and CEO, released the following letter (after the jump):

Dear Partners,
Today we are making an important announcement about the leadership of Warner Bros. Records:  after nearly a decade, Tom Whalley and Diarmuid Quinn are stepping down and will be succeeded by a team of new leaders – Rob Cavallo, Todd Moscowitz and Livia Tortella.
I don’t need to tell you how much Tom has meant to Warner Bros. and WMG over the past nine years.  Just look at how Warner Bros. has performed and how well-positioned it is for the future.  Under Tom’s management, Warner Bros. regained its leadership position.  It has achieved No. 1 status in the U.S. in Total Album share twice in the last five years.  It has ranked among the top three in U.S. labels every year since 2003.
Even more importantly, Warner Bros. has accomplished its creative and operational successes the right way – by always putting artists at the center of what it does.  So much of that comes from the fact that Tom is one of our industry’s great executives with incredible A&R and business instincts.  As a result, today’s Warner Bros. is a haven for established and developing artists and that has led to the label’s outstanding achievements these past few years.  Diarmuid’s contributions at Warner Bros. and, in particular, to Reprise have also played a critical role in the company’s success.  Tom and Diarmuid leave us in an enviable position and for that we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
I’m extremely excited about each of the members of Warner Bros.’ new executive team.  Their strengths are totally complementary to one another and I’m confident they are going to embody the artist-centric and innovative spirit that is at the core of Warner Bros.’ DNA.
As Chairman, Rob will set the tone from the top.  He is not only one of the top-selling producers in the world, but his musical roots are at Warner Bros. – where he started his career as an intern 23 years ago.  From his history, he knows the culture and what makes Warner Bros. such a special place.  With his guidance, we will continue to achieve artist-focused success that is aimed at creating lasting careers and music that endures for generations.
Todd will serve as Co-President and Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros.  He brings his entrepreneurial expertise and thoughtful business approach to the team, having served as Executive Vice President of Warner Bros., CEO of WMG’s Independent Label Group and President of Asylum Records.  As a manager, Todd will be particularly adept in implementing new business models, successfully executing against our 360 deals and creating a first-class delivery system for the talent that Rob will source and develop.
Livia Tortella will serve as Warner Bros.’ Co-President and Chief Operating Officer.  Liv’s star has shone bright in the hugely successful revitalization of Atlantic, where she served as GM and Executive Vice President.  She understands every aspect of the music business – having started her career in A&R and as a product manager, then over the past 10 years helping to develop the careers of artists from Paramore to Kid Rock.  Most recently Liv helped Atlantic launch a series of label ventures, in addition to focusing on artist development first and foremost, but also providing invaluable leadership in the label’s business and digital product development initiatives.
Combining the greatest strengths of each of these executives – Rob’s creativity, Todd’s business vision and Liv’s operational excellence – into a unified, artist-focused triumvirate working with the rest of our outstanding team at Warner Bros. Records as well as with WMG will yield extraordinary results.  I can’t wait to see what they and you are all going to accomplish together.
Here is a link to today’s press release for further details.
Please join me in celebrating Tom’s and Diarmuid’s contributions to Warner Bros., and also in congratulating the new team – Rob, Todd and Liv.  Thank you, all.