Speculation that Pandora CEO Tim Westergren was about to step down was correct – and the streaming service’s president Brian Herring and chief marketing officer Nick Bartle are also leaving the company.
Pandora announced the news this afternoon, following rumours over the weekend about an imminent changing of the guard at the top of the company.
“Tim Westergren has decided to step down from his position as CEO and the board of directors will begin a search for a new CEO immediately,” announced Pandora.
“CFO Naveen Chopra was named interim CEO. With these changes, Westergren will also no longer be a member of the Pandora Board of Directors.”
Westergren issued a statement as part of the announcement, which represents the second time he has stepped down from the company he founded.
“I came back to the CEO role last year to drive transformation across the business. We accomplished far more than we anticipated,” he said.
“We rebuilt Pandora’s relationships with the music industry; launched a fantastic Premium on-demand service, and brought a host of tech innovations to our advertising business. With these in place, plus a strengthened balance sheet, I believe Pandora is perfectly poised for its next chapter.”
The news follows satellite-radio firm Sirius XM’s recent agreement of a $480m investment in Pandora, while the streaming service also agreed to sell its Ticketfly ticketing business to Eventbrite for $200m.
Pandora’s board also had its say in today’s announcement, with board members Roger Faxon and Tim Leiweke issuing their own statements as part of the announcement.
“Over the past several weeks, the board has taken a number of steps to refocus and reinforce Pandora. As listeners continue to move from traditional terrestrial radio to more dynamic and flexible offerings, it is the board’s belief that this transition continues to present a massive opportunity, and that Pandora is in an ideal position to capture an increasing share of this audience,” said Faxon.
“With digital radio at the core of our business, and both Plus and Premium as new, integral parts of our arsenal, Pandora now has all of the tools necessary to capitalise on this opportunity. With our comprehensive suite of offerings and a refortified balance sheet, we will be able to more effectively recruit listeners, and we will be able to provide them with more of the content they want and the services they desire in order to better retain them.”
“Tim stepped in to be CEO at a critical time for the company and was quickly able to reset relations with the major labels, launch our on-demand service, reconstitute the management team and refortify our balance sheet by securing an investment from Sirius XM. We support Tim’s desire to identify a new CEO for Pandora’s next stage,” added Leiweke.
Today’s news was accompanied by the announcement that former MTV, Sling Media and MySpace exec Jason Hirschorn, whose latest venture is email-newsletters startup ReDEF Group, is joining Pandora’s board of directors.
“Jason is a uniquely talented individual who brings highly relevant consumer media experience to our board and will lend valuable counsel as we focus on driving long-term value for our shareholders,” said Leiweke.
As we have noted in recent days, the big question for the music industry is what happens next? Will Pandora’s next CEO continue Westergren’s strategy of pushing into on-demand music – with global expansion also on the cards? Or will they refocus back onto the US and the free, ad-supported radio-like tier of Pandora? Time – and the identify of the new boss – will tell.