Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow to Step Down Next Year

Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy, will step down from his post when his contract expires, sources tell Billboard. Portnow, who has served as the head of the organization that produces the Grammy Awards since 2002, has a deal that runs through July 2019, the sources said, meaning a new leader should be installed by next summer.

“The evolution of industries, institutions and organizations is ultimately the key to their relevance, longevity and success,” Portnow, the longest-serving president in Recording Academy history, said in a statement confirming that he will not seek an extension to his current deal. “Having been a member of the Recording Academy for four decades, serving as an elected leader and our President/CEO, I have not only witnessed our evolution, but proudly contributed significantly to the Academy’s growth and stature in the world. When I had the honor of being selected to lead this great organization in 2002, I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned and collegial transition. With a little more than a year remaining on my current contract, I’ve decided that this is an appropriate time to deliver on that promise. Accordingly, I’ll be working with our Board to put the various elements in place that will ensure transparency, best practices, and the Academy’s ability to find the very best, brightest, and qualified leadership to take us into our seventh decade of operation. I truly look forward to continuing my role leading the Academy in the year ahead, and to continuing the pursuit of excellence and the fine missions we embrace and deliver.”

The decision comes at a time when the Academy has been facing increasing public pressure and backlash amid a number of scandals, many of them self-inflicted. Portnow himself has been at the center of several of them, beginning the night of Jan. 28, 2018, when he said in an interview following the 60th Grammy Awards in New York City that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be better-represented in the music industry. The comment came in response to the fact that — despite a list of nominations that was widely praised for its diversity after years of criticism — Alessia Cara was the only woman to receive an on-stage televised award at the Grammys this year.

Portnow was swiftly criticized by artists and executives alike, with high-profile artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Iggy Azalea, Katy Perry, P!nk, Halsey and Charli XCX all condemning his words. Days later, a publicly-circulated petition that called for his resignation received more than 30,000 signatures, while an open letter signed by more than a dozen women executives in the music industry also urged his resignation, saying that Portnow was “part of the problem.”

In response, Portnow apologized, saying “I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been,” and added, “I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.” On Feb. 1, Portnow released an open letter of his own announcing that the Academy would establish an independent task force to address “where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.”

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SOURCE: Billboard, Dan Rys