In a move that shocked the UK music business today (October 16), Ben Cook has stepped down from his role as president of Atlantic Records.
It follows an “offensive” appearance by Cook, who admitted his mistake in dressing up as a member of Run DMC at a birthday party seven years ago.
Cook has been at Atlantic for 12 years and was appointed president in 2014. He was previously in charge at Asylum and was a key figure in the success of Ed Sheeran, as well as Atlantic acts Clean Bandit, Rudimental and Anne-Marie. Cooked also signed Stormzy to the label as part of a JV with Merky.
Parlophone’s co-president Mark Mitchell will take on the leadership of the label on an interim basis.
A statement from Warner Music said: “Ben Cook is leaving Atlantic UK and this will be his last week in the office.”
I am devastated that this mistake has caused upset and has called into question my commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion
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 has decided to step down following 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.”
Cook’s departure comes at a key point in the industry calendar as Ed Sheeran targets a big Q4 album with No.6 Collaborations Project.