Grammys Boss Neil Portnow to Step Down Next Year

Recording Academy CEO had come under fire earlier this year for comments about the lack of women in the industry

Neil Portnow Grammys
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Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow is preparing to step down from his post in July 2019, the organization announced in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Grammys boss was heavily criticized for comments he made during the 2018 awards’ post-show press conference, in which he said women need to “step up” if they want to be part of the music industry. He soon backtracked on the statement and announced he’d be launching a task force to focus on “female advancement.”

But the damage was done, with a group of female music execs releasing an open letter calling for his resignation, saying his remark was “spectacularly wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women.”

In the statement, the Recording Academy said Portnow is “preparing for a leadership transition after choosing not to seek an extension on his current contract, which expires in July 2019. Portnow shared his plans at the Recording Academy’s semi-annual Board of Trustees meeting last week. Throughout the next year, Portnow will work with the Board to chart out an organizational succession and transition plan, while continuing his current work as active President/CEO of the Recording Academy and MusiCares, and Chair of the Board of the Grammy Museum.”

“The evolution of industries, institutions, and organizations is ultimately the key to their relevance, longevity, and success,” Portnow said. “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,” he continued. “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.”

Before being promoted to president/CEO in 2002, Portnow served on the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees, with John Poppo, current chair of the board, calling him “instrumental in evolving the Recording Academy to address the needs of our creative community in a changing music landscape.”

“From critically-important music advocacy initiatives and financial assistance for our music community, to the music education and preservation programs of the Grammy Museum and Grammy Music Education Coalition, Neil has not only advanced the Academy’s mission, he’s extended its reach and impact,” Poppo added. “The Board and I are indebted to Neil for his years of heartful stewardship and visionary leadership. And, as we thank him for all he’s done, we also look forward to finding the right person to build on our solid foundation as the Recording Academy continues its work to ensure that music and the recording arts remain a thriving part of our cultural heritage.”