Ex-Ad Chief Is Named Next Leader At Pandora

By BEN SISARIO
Courtesy of the Associated Press

September 12, 2013 c.2013 New York Times News Service

Pandora Media on Wednesday named Brian P. McAndrews, a technology and digital advertising executive, its chief executive and chairman. He succeeds Joseph J. Kennedy, who announced his resignation in March after nine years with Pandora, a leading Internet radio service.

McAndrews, 54, is the former chief executive of aQuantive, an online advertising company, and most recently he was a partner with the Madrona Venture Group, a venture capital firm focused on technology. He serves on a number of corporate boards, including The New York Times Co., the food ordering service GrubHub Seamless and AppNexus, an online advertising platform.

“I’m impressed with what the company has done in inventing a new type of product, transforming the way people listen to music and continuing to grow successfully,” McAndrews said in an interview Wednesday. “My goal is to help the company continue that trajectory and take it to the next level.”

The company’s stock rose more than 5 percent in after-hours trading after the news.

McAndrews’ experience with online advertising is crucial for Pandora, which makes almost 90 percent of its revenue from ads and has grown into one of the most popular places for people to listen to music. In August, the service had 72.1 million active users.

After beginning his career at General Mills and ABC, McAndrews took over Avenue A, a digital ad agency in Seattle, in 1999, and built it into aQuantive. It was bought by Microsoft in 2007 for $6 billion, during a rush by technology giants like Google and Yahoo to acquire digital ad companies.

McAndrews was promoted to lead Microsoft’s publishing and advertising group but left in 2008. In the years after that, the performance of aQuantive slid. In 2012, Microsoft took a $6.2 billion accounting charge in its online services division, which included aQuantive.

“We had very specific criteria for our new CEO, and we were very strategic about finding the right person. Brian is that person,” Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder and chief strategy officer, said in a statement. “No one better understands the intersection of technology and advertising, which he clearly demonstrated during aQuantive’s meteoric rise.”

Pandora has also been pressured by investors to maximize its ad rates, particularly on mobile devices, and to limit expenses. Its push to reduce music royalties has led to a frosty relationship with the music industry. On Wednesday, McAndrews echoed the company’s familiar position on royalties.

“I share Pandora’s long-standing belief that musicians have to be compensated fairly, but the existing system has been put together piecemeal and does not serve anyone well,” he said.

McAndrews’ corporate biography has already been tailored for digital music. His playlists, according to Pandora, “reflect his love for Elton John, Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen,” as well as younger acts like Bruno Mars and Rihanna.