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Denis Handlin Departs Sony Music After 51 Years

Denis Handlin has exited from Sony Music Australia, the company he has guided since 1984.

Denis Handlin has exited from Sony Music Australia, the company he has guided since 1984.

Born and raised in Brisbane, and based in Sydney for most of his professional career, Handlin leaves Sony Music as the longest-serving executive within the company’s global ranks, clocking up more than 51 years with the business.

Handlin departs with immediate effect, and an announcement is expected to be made shortly on the new hierarchy at the Australasian affiliate.

The bombshell news dropped Monday morning (June 21) Australia time, closely following another report published in the national press that explores claims of inappropriate behavior at the music major’s subsidiary.


As previously reported, The Sydney Morning Herald has detailed allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment within Sony Music Australia. Earlier in the year, the music giant terminated a veteran executive after a probe found he had engaged in misconduct with staff, details of which were documented by the SMH.

As reported on the weekend in a fresh article, Sony Music has engaged an Australia-based external counsel to handle ongoing investigations into the company’s workplace culture. The publication “isn’t suggesting Mr Handlin is accused of any wrongdoing or is involved or implicated in any of the allegations being investigated,” notes its author Nathanael Cooper.

Still, explains Sony Music Entertainment CEO Rob Stringer, it’s time for change.

“I am writing to let you know that Denis Handlin will be leaving Sony Music Entertainment after more than 50 years with the Company, effective immediately,” reads Stringer’s statement, seen by Billboard.

“It is time for a change in leadership. And I will be making further announcements in terms of the new direction of our business in Australia and New Zealand in due course.”

Handlin’s epic career with Sony Music (then the Australian Record Company) began in May 1970 in the Distribution Division in Brisbane. In 1976, he relocated to head office in Sydney, where he held a number of senior positions including National Promotions Manager, Director of Marketing and General Manager, Marketing and Sales.

Over time, Handlin has been recognized for his service on several occasions, including the ARIA Icon award, the Ted Albert Award, and he has twice been honored by the Queen, as a the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2005 and the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2017. The Aussie exec regularly featured in Billboard’s International Power Players profile.

While guiding the ANZ company, Handlin signed and delivered a long-list of global success stories, from Men at Work to Midnight Oil, Silverchair, John Farnham, Daryl Braithwaite, Tina Arena, Delta Goodrem, Human Nature, and more recently, Tones And I.

Also, Handlin set up and led Sony Music’s business in the Asia Pacific region, and oversaw its expansion there. In September 2010, he added responsibilities as President, South East Asia & Korea, which included managing the day-to-day operations of the Asian Regional Office located in Hong Kong. The following year, he was appointed President, Asia. Later, Handlin was instrumental in the company’s joint venture label with Tencent Music, Liquid State, and he was behind the launch of new headquarters in Beijing.


As part of a structural revamp in early 2020, Handlin was freed up from duties for the Asia Pacific region, to focus on the local business as chairman and CEO of Sony Music Australia and New Zealand.

“My team and I will be speaking further to your team leaders about this process throughout the week, but at this point I wanted to let everyone know this news at the same time,” continues Stringer’s statement.

“We thank Denis for his extraordinary contribution to the company and its artists over his long career in the Australian and New Zealand music industry.”

Sony Music reps had no comment.

Handlin notched 50 years with Sony Music on May 8, 2020. Due to the pandemic, celebrations were put on hold. A special fund-raising anniversary function was set to take place Friday, May 7, 2021 at the ICC Sydney, though a COVID-19 scare in the city forced those plans to be shelved.

Handlin is a founding director of Sony Foundation Australia, which was established in 1998 and has raised over A$36 million for youth-based causes, and he has served as chairman of ARIA since September 2010, his second stint in the role.

With his departure from Sony Music, Handlin’s positions at ARIA become vacant. “Denis Handlin is on the ARIA board as a representative of Sony Music,” says a spokesperson for the trade body. “As he no longer works at Sony Music, he can no longer be on the ARIA board.”