In a move first predicted by Recode on Monday, struggling streaming audio firm Pandora‘s CEO and co-founder has decided to step down as its chief executive while also agreeing to depart the company’s board of directors.
But, Tim Westergren is not the only key executive at Pandora to be stepping aside. In a brief one-sentence statement buried at the bottom of a press release distributed early Tuesday by Pandora, the Oakland, Calif.-based company revealed that President Mike Herring and CMO Nick Bartle are departing the company.
Pandora did not elaborate on the moves.
The announcement explains a pre-Opening Bell halt in trading for Pandora shares, which opened down 1.8% just minutes after trading began on Tuesday but quickly recovered. At 9:45am Eastern, “P” was trading down 3 cents, to $8.43. Just ahead of the Closing Bell on Wall Street, Pandora was up 2 cents, to $8.48.
Pandora will begin a search for a new CEO immediately; CFO Naveen Chopra was named interim CEO. With Westergren’s departure from the Pandora Board of Directors, it also welcomes a new arrival. In an unrelated move, Pandora fills a recently vacated seat on its board by appointing Jason Hirschhorn, the CEO of digital content curation company the ReDEF Group, which he founded in 2013.
On behalf of Pandora’s board, Pandora board member Roger Faxon explained, “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.”
He added that with “digital radio” at the core of Pandora’s business, and both “Plus” and “Premium” as new, integral parts of its arsenal, Pandora now has all of the tools necessary to capitalize 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,” Faxon said.
Pandora board member Tim Leiweke, who has emerged as an integral player in the company’s future, spoke for the company’s board in thanking Westergren “for his vision and his many years of leadership that have created one of the most recognized brands in streaming music today.”
Leiweke added that Westergren “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.”
Leiweke is the former President/CEO of Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and former President/CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group. Since November 2015, Leiweke has served as the CEO of the Oak View Group, “a global advisory, development and investment company for the sports and live entertainment industries.”
Westergren said, “I am incredibly proud of the company we have built. We invented a whole new way of enjoying and discovering music and in doing so, forever changed the listening experience for millions. I came back to the CEO role last year to drive transformation across the business. We accomplished far more than we anticipated. 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.”
Speaking of Hirschhorn, Leiweke said, “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. With this new addition to the board, as well as our recently announced partnership with Sirius XM and our sale of Ticketfly, we have added significant intellectual and capital resources to Pandora, and we are confident that the company is in a better position than ever to capture an increasing share of the music listening audience.”
Hirschhorn’s resume includes roles as the Chief Product Officer and Co-President of Myspace Inc., as President of Sling Media, and, prior to that, as Chief Digital Officer at MTV Networks, where he was responsible for the company’s digital media business and interactive strategy.