John MacFarlane, the founder and longtime CEO of speaker company Sonos, has announced he is stepping down after 14 years. Calling this a “magical moment for Sonos,” MacFarlane announced in a blog post that Patrick Spence, another longtime exec there, would replace him.
MacFarlane, who has been CEO since 2002, said he will resign from the Sonos board but will stay on at the Santa Barbara-based company as an advisor. In his goodbye note, he emphasized the growing number of options for music consumers, and praised Sonos’ commitment to leading in the “smart home,” consumer Wi-Fi market.
“The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete,” he said. “For us, it’s now about accelerating and leading. I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better.”
Sonos’ big news for 2016 came when it announced it would be partnering with Amazon to integrate its systems with Amazon’s line of popular voice-assisted speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot. The company also opened its first retail store, in NYC, and in August announced partnerships with China’s QQ Music, Airbnb, among others. The company also streamlined how Spotify and Pandora users control their Sonos speakers (they now can use those third-party apps to do basic functions, rather than Sonos’ app.)
Sonos is a private company so does not disclose its sales or revenue numbers, but MacFarlane previously said the company’s 2015 sales were around $1 billion.
MacFarlane told the New York Times that he had planned on resigning as CEO earlier, citing his wife’s bout with cancer, but changed course when Amazon’s Echo speakers began rising in popularity. He said, essentially, that he dropped the ball on the voice-recognition front.
“I fell into that trap where I’ve been watching voice recognition for years,” Mr. MacFarlane said. “I tried Echo in the beginning and wrote it off. I had too many distractions at that time. I wasn’t playing at the level I should have been playing at in all frankness.”
MacFarlane said that in addition to his advisory role, he’ll work to “center and potentially expand” Sonos’ work in STEM education, and will continue advocating for a startup-friendly ecosystem within the music and tech industries.
On Spence, his replacement, MacFarlane said “there isn’t a person who better embodies Sonos’ values and culture.”