Following rumblings of a shakeup over the weekend, Pandora confirmed today that co-founder Tim Westergren is stepping down from his role as CEO. Naveen Chopra, who stepped in as the company’s CFO back in February, will be filling in the top spot as interim CEO while the board of directors looks for a permanent replacement.
Westergren was one of three founders of the music streaming service. He became CEO of the company shortly after its founding for two years and stepped back into the role in 2016, stating that Pandora was “on the cusp of realizing an extraordinary vision.”
Things don’t appear to have panned out that way, however. The company’s had its fair share of financial struggles in the past, and the music industry’s continuous transformation hasn’t made things any easier.
Licensing costs have been an ongoing issue for the service and it has struggled to expand its reach outside of the U.S. Pandora also has felt significant pressure from the rise of on-demand streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
The company may be in a somewhat better position financially than when Westergren stepped back into the CEO role, having sold off Ticketfly in May in an attempt to streamline the business, along with a $480 million cash infusion from Sirius XM last month. But that kind of investment almost certainly came with the promise to “refocus and reinforce” the company, as board member Roger Faxon put it in a press release tied to today’s announcement.
President Mike Herring and CMO Nick Bartle also will be exiting the company as part of the shakeup. Westergren’s departure as CEO also finds the former executive stepping down from the company’s board of directors. He will be replaced by Jason Hirschhorn, the CEO of “digital content curation” company ReDEF Group, who has previously been an executive at Myspace and Sling and served as MTV’s Chief Digital Officer.
Fellow board member Tim Leiweke says the company is “confident that the company is in a better position than ever to capture an increasing share of the music listening audience.” But Pandora put an equally positive spin on things last time it had a shakeup at the top. One thing seems certain: whoever ultimately fills the CEO position will have a tough road ahead.