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Pandora's Tim Westergren Could Exit As Early As Today: Source

Tim Westergren, CEO and Founder of Pandora
Courtesy of Pandora

Tim Westergren, CEO and Founder of Pandora

'It’s just a question of how and when,' a source tells Billboard.

Pandora Chief Executive Tim Westergren could be pushed out as head of the music streaming company as soon as today, a source tells Billboard.

Westergren, who co-founded the internet radio service in 2000, hasn't been able to make it profitable since. Members of the Pandora board have pushed to hire a more experienced manager to run the company and move Westergren to a non-operational role as evangelist or brand ambassador.

“It’s just a question of how and when,” the source tells Billboard. “There’s still internal wrangling.”

Tim Leiweke, the former chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group who was leading an independent committee to find new board members, and Anthony J. “Tony” Vinciquerra, who resigned from the board this month after taking over as chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, were among those advocating for the change, sources said.

Both men declined to comment and a Pandora spokesperson declined comment. 

Westergren’s planned departure was first reported by Recode.

Although Westergren is passionate about music and negotiated Pandora’s first direct licensing deals with the major record companies so that it could offer on-demand streaming, the firm has struggled to find profitability under his management. The service lost money in each of the last nine quarters, and the number of listeners to its free ad-supported radio service dropped to a two-year low in the most recent quarter -- a sign of intensifying competition from digital music rivals such as Spotify, Apple Music and others. 

Pandora had sought an infusion of cash from the private equity firm of KKR, but exited that deal earlier this month in favor of a $480 million investment from SiriusXM. The satellite radio giant will gain three board seats in exchange for its investment, which has yet to close. Sirius is interested in using Pandora and its ad-sales force of terrestrial radio veterans to help it compete with FM radio in connected cars, sources tell Billboard.

Pandora also sold its ticketing operation, Ticketfly, to Eventbrite in a deal valued at $200 million. Pandora had acquired the ticketing business two years earlier for $335 million.

Westergren may be asked to remain as interim chief executive while a successor is found -- a job the co-founder may not want. Some on the board hoped Westergren, who is viewed as the spirit of Pandora, would remain associated with the company. 

It is unclear whether Pandora’s chief financial officer, Naveen Chopra, would fill his role in the interim. Chopra arrived at Pandora earlier this year from TiVo, where he served as chief financial officer. He left TiVo after the company’s acquisition by Rovi.

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