Warner Music executive Bernd Dopp announced on Tuesday he is stepping down after 37 years at the company, with the last 17 as chairman and CEO of Warner Music Central Europe. Taking over the Hamburg-based label starting Oct. 1 will be co-presidents Doreen Schimk, currently the managing director, media & brands, and Fabian Drebes, managing director, international.
“Bernd is an incredible music man, who is known for his passionate advocacy on behalf of our artists,” said Max Lousada, CEO of recorded music for WMG and Simon Robson, president, international, recorded music. “But, just as importantly, he’s also created a welcoming, warm culture at Warner Music Central Europe that’s impressed everyone who’s experienced it.”
The leadership shakeup in Germany follows a similar changing of the guard last year in France, where Alain Veille took over for Thierry Chassagne as president of Warner Music France. Like Dopp, Chassagne had been at the helm of his respective WMG subsidiary since 2004.
Dopp is a five-decade veteran of WMG and the company’s longest-serving CEO in Europe. After working in retail, he joined Warner Music in 1984 as a label manager before working his way up to managing director of WEA Records a decade later. When WEA merged with Warner Classics and other entities to form Warner Music Germany in 2001, he was put in charge. In 2004, Warner Music International created a new European structure, grouping the major’s operations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA) into what would eventually be known as Warner Music Central Europe.
As CEO from the very start, Dopp guided WMCE through the music industry’s oft-bumpy transition into digital and, more recently, through a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Through it all, he has delivered hits in his territories with international artists, including Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Cardi B, and via domestic talent, ranging from the popular German rap genre to the children’s music market. Other Warner acts who benefited from his support over the years include Neil Young, Prince, Madonna, Linkin Park, Bruno Mars, Enya and more.
With Schimk and Drebes’ appointments as co-presidents, Warner Music will become the first major in Germany to have a dual leadership structure. Both have been members of Dopp’s senior management team since 2014 and in their current roles since 2018.
“Working with Bernd Dopp has been about learning from excellence,” the two execs said in a joint statement. “He’s our most influential mentor. He continuously pushed us and himself forward with enthusiasm, empathy, and experience. As a true leader and music icon, he leaves behind a great and valuable legacy in the music industry and deserves our biggest respect.”
The company said Dopp will stay involved beyond October, acting as a senior consultant. As for the timing of his departure, Dopp remarked that it was simply “time for a change of generation” at the label.
“It was an honor and a privilege to experience this incredible journey with Warner Music,” he said. “Now I am proud to hand over the responsibility for the company to Doreen Schimk and Fabian Drebes. They’re both highly respected in the artist community, as well as in the local and international music business. They’re truly among the most excellent music executives in Europe and I have absolute confidence in both to lead the company into an even more successful future. I wish them all the best, lots of success and a great deal of pleasure! Of course, I would like to thank my entire team and all the artists I have had the privilege to work with and for. I had a great time!”
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