Catching many in the Latin industry by surprise, the Latin Recording Academy announced today that its longtime president and CEO, Gabriel Abaroa, Jr., is stepping down.
In his stead, Manuel Abud, the Academy’s COO for the past two years, will step into the role of CEO, effective August 1. At that point, Abaroa will become president emeritus, a newly created “senior advisory role” through which he will continue to assist in some projects and help in Abud’s transition into the role.
Although outwardly Abaroa’s departure was not expected, the Academy’s announcement said it was actually part of a carefully crafted succession plan in which “several candidates were considered,” according to a statement by board of trustees chair Eduardo Hütt.
“Manuel Abud meets the established criteria. The plan was carefully executed, and Manuel was groomed over an extended period,” says Hütt.
Abud’s background is not in music or the music industry but in television. He was previously CEO of the Azteca América network, and prior to that, spent 14 years at NBCUniversal. Since coming to the Academy, he led a major reorganization that includes the recent hiring of Tanya Ramos-Puig to lead the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation, and the implementation of a digital content development strategy.
Abud steps into the role at a time when there has been tremendous scrutiny of the Grammys and, to a lesser degree, the Latin Grammys.
Just last month, after intense pressure and criticism, the Academy of Recording Artist & Sciences announced that it would eliminate the “secret committees” that have decided the nominees for most Grammy categories for years, However, the Latin Academy — which has been criticized by the reggaetón and regional Mexican artistic communities for lack of inclusion in the main categories– told Billboard it had no plans to eliminate its nominating committees.
“While the awards process for the Latin Grammys mirrors the essence of the Grammy process, The Latin Recording Academy’s members have the ability to modify procedures respective to the needs and evolution of Latin music,” read the statement. “Since we are mainly an international organization, our systems and procedures have some differences. Given the richness of Latin music and its diverse fields, we depend on the expertise of our members in order to best respect and honor excellence in the different genres that compose our culture.”
Abud takes over a position that’s been very visibly and vocally occupied by Abaroa since 2003, when he became president of the Academy.
Abaroa was promoted to president/CEO in 2010 and was instrumental in growing the Academy’s Person of the Year gala, as well as creating the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation in 2014. Abaroa also helmed the transition of the Latin Grammy telecast from English to Spanish and in 2018 extended the Academy’s broadcast partnership with Univision through 2028.
In 2013 interview with Billboard, Abaroa hinted that he might be stepping down from his role and “passing the baton.” But the following year, he renewed his contract for another five years. In 2019, the Latin Grammys celebrated its 20th anniversary, with 16 of those under Abaroa’s leadership.