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Rio Caraeff to Exit as Vevo CEO

Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff will leave the music video company — the biggest single content partner for YouTube — at the end of the year, Variety has confirmed.

“After nearly 6 years, I have decided to depart Vevo at the end of this year,” the exec wrote in a memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by Variety. “Making this decision was very hard but I know that the company is left in a very good place. Never before has she had such a deep bench of leadership and talent.”

New York-based Vevo is majority-owned by Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, with minority stakes held by Google and Abu Dhabi Media.

[UPDATE, Nov. 17, 7 a.m. PT: Vevo officially announced Caraeff’s departure. “We thank Rio for his innumerable contributions to the company since its launch in 2009 and we wish him all the best in the future,” the company’s investors said in a statement. “As CEO, Rio has played a central role in building Vevo into the most visited destination for premium music video and entertainment, and in growing the Vevo brand around the world. As a result, we are both encouraged by Vevo’s current performance and excited about its potential to become a massive platform for music entertainment.”]

While Vevo searches for a new CEO, the board has named chief financial officer Alan Price as interim CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

In Caraeff’s memo to Vevo staff, he said he doesn’t have another gig lined up post-Vevo: “What is next for me? I do not yet know but I will take a moment to clear my head and when the time is right, my passion will guide and I will jump back in,” he wrote.

Caraeff sent the memo to employees Friday evening, ahead of a story in the New York Post reporting his departure. A Vevo rep did not respond to a request for more info.

Prior to joining Vevo in 2009, Caraeff has worked in new technologies for film, TV, music and games companies, including Universal Music Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Fabric (which he co-founded), Sony 550 Digital Media Ventures, Sony Music Entertainment and Capitol Records Group.

Vevo offers more than 100,000 HD music videos, original programming and live concerts to viewers across multiple platforms, and through several partners in addition to YouTube including AOL, CBS Interactive Music Group, Disney Interactive, Facebook, Univision Communications, Viacom Media Networks and BET, Wenner Media and Yahoo.

YouTube accounts for a large piece of Vevo’s business, although Vevo has increasingly been pushing users toward its own apps. Separately, Google last week launched YouTube Music Key, a subscription music video service that will provide access to millions of videos and songs without ads.

Here’s the full text of Caraeff’s memo:

Team,

Due to an ill timed leak which has led to a pending story in the press, I have decided to send this letter out to the company in advance of my planned announcement on Monday so that you hear about it first from me directly.
There are times in life when there is no other way to say it other than to just come out with it. So here goes..
After nearly 6 years, I have decided to depart Vevo at the end of this year.

I care very deeply about the company that along with many of you, I helped to get off the ground. I love her and will miss her but even more so, I will miss you all.

Our company celebrates its 5th birthday next month and that is as fitting a time as any for a change.

To thrill and delight music fans around the world has always been our purpose. To bring music video to more people, in more places and in the highest quality possible was always our mission. And we have been through a heck of a lot together. My mind races thinking about all of the great products we have shipped, the countries we have grown into, and all of the shows and incredible programming that we’ve produced.

I am proud of our Product & Tech team and the very first app that we developed and launched, which was for the iPhone in 2010. I also am very proud of our first app for TV, which was on Xbox. Our AppleTV app is still my personal favorite to use but what makes that one even more rewarding is knowing the back story of just how hard that we worked on it and how long it took just to get that deal done and that app launched (years!).

I am proud of our Sales, Research, Revenue Ops and International teams and everything that they have accomplished – it is continually awe inspiring and amazing to me that we have built (from scratch!) such a world class team across the US, UK and Germany and a network of successful partnerships around the globe. It’s hard to believe (but completely true) that there was a time when we had no revenue or sales teams and had to set about building it all from nothing.

I am proud of our Marketing, Event & Programming teams for the many premieres, original shows and incredible events that we have pulled off over the years around the globe. Vevo Presents Kanye West (ft Jay-Z) live from Austin at SXSW is probably my all time favorite show that we’ve ever produced. Being in that abandoned power station and walking out of there somewhere between 4 and 5am after a blistering series of performances culminating with Kanye and Jay was something that I will never forget.

I am proud of our Business, Finance & HR teams, for being the oft-unsung heroes and doing so much heavy lifting that most of the company is not aware of every day. From going to battle fearlessly in some very tough negotiations behind the scenes, to making sure that rights owners, artists and songwriters get paid to assuring that we have a roof over our heads and cash in the bank, you guys and gals work tirelessly to make sure that it all comes together.

Looking back, we were able to successfully convince the entire industry to evolve and change the way that it had historically operated and to think about its customer differently. Restoring the value of music audiences and making them ultimately as valuable (if not more so) than those who love sports remains our goal.

We have won many battles and have lived to fight another day. Although there are many more to fight and much work to be done I know that you are all up for the task.

Making this decision was very hard but I know that the company is left in a very good place. Never before has she had such a deep bench of leadership and talent. Our company also enjoys the recently renewed support of our founding shareholders who have consistently demonstrated a prescient long-term vision that our business is core and strategic. That music audiences are tremendously valuable. That thrilling and delighting fans with great programming just makes sense.

While our Board works swiftly to hire a new CEO, it has asked Alan Price to step up and run the company as interim CEO together with our senior leadership team. The company is in truly great hands with this team who have my utmost respect and trust.

What is next for me? I do not yet know but I will take a moment to clear my head and when the time is right, my passion will guide and I will jump back in.

Sincerely,
Rio

ps. An official press release will be sent out by our company on Monday morning which includes words of support from our shareholders and speaks to the leadership transition in detail.

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