Pandora Media's CEO Tim Westergren to step down

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Following news that broke yesterday afternoon of Pandora founder Tim Westergren's plan to step down from his CEO role at the company, there are strong whispers that the company is to halt its Australia and New Zealand operations imminently.

Westergren co-founded Pandora in 2000 and served as CEO/president from 2002 until 2014, before returning in May of past year as CEO (replacing Brian McAndrews).

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".

Westergren, who helped to co-found Pandora in 1999, may have seen the writing on the wall early this month.

The release suggested that Westergren's departure aligned with the board's strategy. Westergren has been the CEO since 2016.

There has also been chatter that Verizon was interested in buying a stake in Pandora.

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Satellite radio network SiriusXM recently said that it will invest $480 million in Pandora, forging a union between two companies that have operated on parallel tracks.

"With these in place, plus a strengthened balance sheet, I believe Pandora is perfectly poised for its next chapter", Mr Westergren said.

But along the way Pandora antagonized the music industry and was slow to adapt to the challenges posed by Spotify and Apple Music, which together have come to dominate the streaming market. Some analysts were encouraged by the renewed core focus and profitability of this deal, even if they dislike convertible stock financing, while others were largely negative.

The management shakeup comes at a tumultuous time for Pandora, as rumors abound of a buyout by Sirius XM Holdings Inc. Pandora makes most of its money from the free version, bringing in almost $1.1 billion in ad revenue previous year. After surpassing 200 million users in April 2013, the company has struggled in recent years to compete with rivals like Apple Music or Spotify.

Hirschhorn is joining the board to fill a vacant seat.

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