Jeffrey Harleston is General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs for Santa Monica, California-based Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment with operations in more 60 countries. UMG’s labels include Capitol, Interscope, Republic, Motown, Island, Def Jam, Decca and Verve, as well as a leading global music publishing company, Universal Music Publishing and the industry’s leading merchandising company, Bravado.
Harleston is a member of UMG’s executive management board and he is responsible for overseeing all business transactions, contracts, and litigation for UMG’s operations worldwide. In addition, he is also responsible for the company’s government relations, trade and anti-piracy activities.
During a 26-year career with UMG, Harleston has held a variety of senior executive positions including Executive Vice President/Head of Operations for Geffen Records and Senior Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs for MCA Records. Before joining UMG, Harleston was Associate Independent Counsel during the investigation and prosecution of the Iran/Contra scandal. He also worked as a litigation associate at the firm of Covington & Burling in Washington D.C. and, before law school, as an Account Executive for Saatchi & Saatchi Compton Advertising in New York.
Throughout his career, Harleston has been recognized for his many achievements including receiving The Recording Academy’s 2020 Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award, Billboard’s 2018 “Lawyer of the Year,” the 2018 Diversity Award from the Association of Corporate Counsel for Southern California. In 2017, Harleston was named one of Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” and he is annually recognized by Billboard on the magazine’s “Power 100” list of the most powerful executives in the music industry.
Harleston serves on the Board of the Berkeley Law Alumni Association and he is a Member of the Board of Trustees of Williams College in Massachusetts and the Board of Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. He also serves on the boards of SoundExchange and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His charitable activities include serving as Chairman of the TJ Martell Foundation and as a board member of MusiCares. Harleston is proud to be a Founder of the Universal/Motown Fund, an endowment dedicated to providing financial assistance for artists from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Harleston graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Williams College and holds a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law at U.C. Berkeley. He and his wife, Maria, live in Los Angeles and have four children.