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Edgar Bronfman Jr. Steps Down as Warner Music Group Chairman

The former Vivendi and Seagram’s exec sold WMG in May

Edgar Bronfman Jr. is vacating his role as chairman of Warner Music Group but will remain on the company’s board, he announced in a memo to staff Monday that was obtained by TheWrap.

The memo made no mention of who will succeed Bronfman as Chairman.

“As my other obligations are beginning to take an inordinate amount of time, I have asked to step down as WMG’s board chairman, effective January 31, 2012,” Bronfman told staff. “However, I will remain a director of the company and in that way, continue my association with Warner Music and its extraordinary people.”

While the news is not technically official — WMG has no statement — the corporate imprimatur is all that remains.

Bronfman bought the company from parent Time Warner back in 2004, taking over as CEO. He sold it in May to Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries and switched from his CEO position to chairman in August. Stephen Cooper succeded Bronfman as chief executive.

With this latest move, he continues to step back from the company he no longer owns. The one-time vice chairman of Vivendi Universal told his staff he needed the time to pursue other endeavors.

Bronfman moved WMG rapidly into the digital side of the music business, upping its sales and market share despite the overall decline industrywide. He also favored the "360" deals labels now sign with many artists, whereby they get a part of not just album sales but other revenues streams such as touring and merchandise.One reason he can step back now is that his attempted acquisition of EMI is now off the table. WMG aggressively pursued a purchase of EMI from Citigroup, and for much of the year was considered a frontrunner for the label’s recorded music division.

Also Read: Universal's $1.9B EMI Deal: In a Digital World, Market Share Counts For Less

However, the other two major labels — both larger than WMG — swept in instead. Vivendi, owner of Universal Music Group, agreed to buy the recorded music side of EMI, while Sony took the publishing business. Both deals are still subject to regulatory approval.

Blavatnik, whose Access Industries does business in natural resources, chemical and real estate, as well as media, penned his own memo to the staff.

“When I joined WMG’s board in 2004, I watched Edgar take a neglected division of Time Warner and turn it into a paradigm of how a traditional media company could redefine itself for the digital age with a culture celebrating innovation and collaboration,” Blavatnik wrote. “It was his vision in transforming WMG into a progressive, modern music company that made WMG so attractive to Access. Given that vision and his years of expertise in the industry, as a director at WMG, he will continue to be an important part of our leadership, and I look forward to his many future contributions.”

Also Read: Access Industries to Acquire Warner Music Group for $3.3B

Bronfman has a long history in the media and entertainment world. His family made its fortune from Seagram's, once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world. As CEO of Seagram's, Bronfman spearheaded purchases of Polygram and Universal.

However, he later sold Seagram's to Vivendi, and after a brief stint as chief of the new company, Bronfman departed.

He now holds executive positions at a series of companies, including the chairmanship of Endeavor Global, an international non-profit that supports entrepreneurs.