Record label boss quits over "offensive" Run DMC costume

16 October 2019, 16:42

Ben Cook, pictured with Ed Sheeran and Cardi B, has resigned from Atlantic Records over an "offensive" outfit he wore seven years ago
Ben Cook, pictured with Ed Sheeran and Cardi B, has resigned from Atlantic Records over an "offensive" outfit he wore seven years ago. Picture: Twitter

By Kate Buck

A record label boss who gave Ed Sheeran his first deal has resigned from his post over a historical "offensive" appearance where he dressed as a member of Run DMC.

Atlantic Records president Ben Cook announced his departure having made the "terrible mistake" seven years ago at a party.

Cook said in a statement that he was previously reprimanded by the label for dressing as a member of the American hip-hop group, but that new allegations about his appearance prompted his departure from the label.

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.

He said he went to a birthday party dressed as a member of the band
He said he went to a birthday party dressed as a member of the band. Picture: PA

"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."

Cook said that it has been "an incredible privilege to have worked with the immensely talented artists, managers and team at Atlantic and the wider Warner family".

He added: "I unreservedly apologise to anyone who has been hurt."

Cook was at Atlantic for 12 years, first working at the label's sister company Asylum Records, where he discovered Sheeran and, along with colleague Ed Howard, gave him his first record deal.

Cook was promoted to Atlantic's president in 2014.

Over the years he has also worked closely with music stars including Clean Bandit, Rudimental and Anne-Marie.

Cook also helped to bring grime star Stormzy to the label last year as part of a joint venture with the rapper's own Merky Records outfit.

A statement from Warner Music, the parent company of Atlantic, said: "Ben Cook is leaving Atlantic UK and this will be his last week in the office."

Parlophone co-president Mark Mitchell will step into the leadership role on an interim basis following Cook's departure.

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