Indian American executive Naveen Chopra has been named interim chief executive officer of the company, Pandora, as co-founder and CEO Tim Westergren, under intensifying competitive pressure from Spotify and Apple Music, is relinquishing his position and stepping down from the company board. Chopra, the chief financial officer, will remain in the interim CEO role as the company seeks a permanent replacement.
“Tim stepped in to be CEO at a critical time for the company and was quickly able to reset relations with the major labels, launch our on-demand service, reconstitute the management team and refortify our balance sheet by securing an investment from Sirius. We support Tim’s desire to identify a new CEO for Pandora’s next stage,” said Tim Leiweke, Pandora board member.
Westergren, who helped found the company 17 years ago, returned as CEO about 15 months ago with Pandora struggling to match the subscribers heading to rival services. He had also been CEO between 2002 and 2004.
After Westergren’s return as CEO in March, the company launched a new $10 a month on-demand music service which lets users select the songs they want to hear, copying what Spotify and Apple Music already offer.
Pandora had 4.7 million paying subscribers at the end of March, while Spotify said it had more than 50 million. Pandora and other streaming music services use algorithms to determine what listeners want to hear, based on the songs they like and do not like. Ads are played in the free version, but users can pay $5 per month to listen ad-free. Pandora makes most of its money from the free version, bringing in nearly $1.1 billion in ad revenue last year.
The company, based in Oakland, Calif., also said June 27 that Michael Herring has stepped down as president and that former MySpace and MTV Networks executive Jason Hirschhorn is joining Pandora’s board. Shares of Pandora Media Inc., which are already down 35 percent since the beginning of the year, slipped about 1 percent to $8.38 in midday trading.
Prior to joining Pandora, Chopra served as interim CEO of TiVo Inc. A graduate of Stanford in computer science and economics, he also earned an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.