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Deborah Dugan Officially Named New Recording Academy President/CEO

It's official. Following an extensive search, former (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan will succeed Neil Portnow as the Recording Academy's new president and CEO, the Academy confirmed Wednesday.

It’s official. Following an extensive search, former (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan will succeed Neil Portnow as the Recording Academy’s new president and CEO, the Academy confirmed Wednesday (May 8).

Billboard first reported on Dugan’s selection last month, but the Academy had not publicly announced the news until now. Dugan makes history as the first woman to hold the Academy’s president/CEO post, which she will assume on Aug. 1. 

“Im honored, humbled, and ready,” said Dugan in a statement. “The goal of the Recording Academy is to support, encourage, and advocate for those within the music community. I will listen to and champion all of those individuals, and lead this iconic organization into the future. I’m excited to get started.”


Dugan launched her career as a Wall Street mergers and acquisition attorney and has since served as president of Disney Publishing Worldwide and, for eight years, executive vp at EMI/Capitol Records. She joined non-profit AIDS organization (RED) as CEO in 2011. During her time at (RED), which was founded in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Dugan tripled the org’s contributions to The Global Fund, which now tally more than $500 million.

She currently serves as co-chair of the award-winning storytelling nonprofit The Moth.

“Deborah is a highly accomplished business executive and a visionary leader who also brings to this role a great passion for the mission of the Academy,” said John Poppo, chair of the Board of Trustees that selected Dugan from a wide pool of applicants. “The Board of Trustees is very eager to work with her as we embark on this next chapter in the Recording Academy’s story.”

Dugan will oversee all Recording Academy affairs in her new position, working closely with the Academy’s Board of Trustees and senior management team. That includes serving as president/CEO of charity org MusiCares and on the boards of the GRAMMY Museum Foundation and The Latin Recording Academy.


In May 2018, Portnow announced he would step down from his role after 17 years in the position. He will depart his post in July, following a year-long hunt for his successor that was handled by executive search firm Korn Ferry.

The job description, obtained by Billboard in April, called for a “‘big picture’ mind” and “philosophy of inclusiveness that encourages transparency and facilitates the sharing of knowledge” — reflecting the Academy’s recent efforts to diversify through initiatives like its Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion and new membership model.

Few women have ascended to the Academy’s top ranks over the years. Ruby Marchand is the board’s current vice chair under chair Poppo, while Laura Segura Mueller serves as vp membership & industry relations. The sparse list of former top female staffers includes three ex-senior vps (Diane Theriot in awards, Kristen Madsen in foundations and Nancy Shapiro in special projects) and two former chairs of the board of trustees, Leslie Ann Jones and Christine Albert