Warner Music Group has moved to deny tabloid reports that pressure from Stormzy was behind the decision to part company with Atlantic UK president Ben Cook.
In a move that shocked the music business yesterday, Cook stepped down and apologised for dressing as a member of Run DMC at a birthday party seven years ago. Today, The Sun newspaper ran a story claiming Stormzy had threatened to quit Atlantic – who did a JV deal with the rapper’s #Merky label in 2018 – over the incident.
However, a Warner Music Group spokesman has now tersely dismissed the rumours, saying: “That’s simply not true. No artists were involved in our decision-making.”
A previous Warner statement had only said: “Ben Cook is leaving Atlantic UK and this will be his last week in the office.”
In a personal statement issued by Cook, he acknowledged that the major disciplined him last year over the incident, apparently on the grounds of racially offensive behaviour. But while Warner Music allowed him to stay in post, he decided to step down following further rumours about the incident.
In his statement, Cook said: “It is with great sadness that today I announce I am stepping down as president of Atlantic Records, UK. Seven years ago, at a birthday party where guests were asked to come dressed as their favourite musical icon, I came as a member of Run DMC. Late last year rumours began to circulate about my appearance at that event, many of which are simply untrue. While my intention was to honour a musical hero, I recognise my appearance was offensive and I made a terrible mistake.
“As a consequence of this, I readily agreed to disciplinary actions by my employer last year. 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.
“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.”