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Cohen to head Warner Music

NEW YORK -- Edgar Bronfman Jr. has lured Lyor Cohen away from Island Def Jam Music Group to head Bronfman's recently acquired Warner Music Group, the company said yesterday.

The move reunites Cohen with Bronfman, who led a group of investors that purchased Warner Music Group in November for $2.6 billion. The pair worked together when Bronfman was head of the Universal media conglomerate, until Bronfman sold all of those music, film, TV, and theme-park assets to the French company Vivendi in 2000.

"I've worked with Lyor since '98," Bronfman said in a conference call yesterday. "It's a fantastic opportunity to join forces."

Cohen is a brash, legendary figure in the rap industry who started with the pioneering Def Jam Records 21 years ago. He will become one of the top music executives in the world at a time when the industry is facing significant restructuring and cost-cutting challenges in the face of declining sales and music downloading.

He was able to avoid the fate of other prominent label heads who have fallen victim to the changing times, such as Tommy Mottola, ousted from atop Sony Music, and Antonio "L.A." Reid, who was let go by Arista.

"Lyor Cohen runs things in a way the other guys can't," his longtime friend and business partner Russell Simmons said in a statement. Bronfman's purchase of Warner Music Group created one of the world's largest music companies. Warner's share of the market is second only to Universal; as of last November, Warner had approximately 18 percent of overall market share, while Universal had about 28 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

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