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Struggling Pandora Restores Founder Tim Westergren as CEO

The music-focused executive replaces Brian McAndrews

Online radio service Pandora nameds its founder with music roots, Tim Westergren, as chief executive Tuesday, with advertising-focused CEO Brian McAndrews departing immediately in a reshuffling of top executives.

Independent board member Jim Feuille, a partner at venture capital fund Crosslink Capital, was named chairman.

Despite McAndrews’ departure and the other changes, Westergren said he, the company and its board were “100 percent committed” to Pandora’s growth strategy.

The shifts come as Pandora deals with a turning point in streaming music, where trends have been slowly chipping away at its front-runner status. As streaming music has overtaken digital downloads as the biggest sector of the recording industry’s business, subscriptions — and not ad-supported online radio like Pandora — has emerged as the fastest growing sector.

But Pandora, which has been crimped from expanding abroad by its licensing rules, has struggled to keep growing its listenership while global competitors, like Spotify and even YouTube, have blown past it.

Pandora’s struggles have taken a toll on its share price. In recent trading, they had slid 8.7 percent at $9.98 a share. In the last year, the stock has plunged about 40 percent.

Monday, the company said Westergren would become CEO effective immediately, replacing McAndrews, an executive with a deep advertising resume who has been the company’s chief since late 2013.

McAndrews said he was honored to have been the CEO of Pandora and proud of what he and his team achieved in his two-and-a-half years at the helm.

Westergren, a former musician and composer, helped develop the DNA of Pandora’s music recommendation engine, the Music Genome Project, in the early 2000s. He has held various roles at Pandora through the company’s lifetime, but his CEO appointment reinstalls him firmly at the head of the company.

“We’re on the cusp of realizing an extraordinary vision: fundamentally changing the way listeners discover and enjoy music, and the way artists build and sustain their careers,” Westergren said in a statement. “We are pursuing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a massive, vibrant music marketplace. We have the audience, the technology infrastructure, the monetization engine and most importantly the right team with the passion and commitment to do it.”

Pandora also tweaked it management structure. Mike Herring, who will remain chief financial officer, has expanded responsibilities over the company’s sales and revenue teams, which report to him now. Overall, he is charged with driving monetization of Pandora’s core business covering revenue, music licensing, finance, legal, and information technology.

Sara Clemens, previously the company strategy chief, was named its chief operating officer, and will focus on on growing the company’s business and operating its new ventures, like the integration of ticket seller Ticketfly. She also will handle international, human resources and corporate development.

Chief product officer Chris Phillips added engineering and marketing to his list of responsibilities, including the on-demand service that makes Pandora more like subscription rivals like Spotify.

After acquiring the assets of smaller subscription competitor Rdio as it filed for bankruptcy protection last year, Pandora will launch a subscription service that will let listeners hear the exact track they want, in a bid to follow the tide of consumer preference.