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Vevo CEO Erik Huggers Is Stepping Down

Updated. Erik Huggers is stepping down as the president and CEO of the major-label-owned music video platform Vevo, the company announced Friday. CFO Alan Price will be stepping in as interim CEO while the company is looking for new leadership; Price will continue to serve as Vevo’s CFO as well.

“We would like to thank Erik for his hard work, dedication and leadership at Vevo, which grew dramatically during his tenure and helped forge stronger connections between artists and fans through popular features and original programming,” Vevo’s board said Friday in a statement announcing the leadership transition.

“During the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to step down as Chief Executive Officer as we close out a record breaking year,” Huggers said in a memo to staff that Variety was able to obtain. (Read the full memo below.)

Huggers joined Vevo as president and CEO in 2015 after the departure of its founding CEO Rio Caraeff. Before joining Vevo, he had been leading Intel’s short-lived internet television efforts, developing a TV service called OnCue that never launched. He was also instrumental to the BBC’s launch of the iPlayer.

At Vevo, Huggers was pushing for more independence from YouTube, which continues to be the service’s biggest distribution platform. As part of these efforts, he built out a San Francisco-based product team that launched owned-and-operated apps for mobile and TV-connected devices.

Huggers was also toying with the idea to launch a paid subscription service centered around music videos, but the company shelved those plans earlier this year.  Vevo also developed initiatives around original content and live streaming, and dabbled in live events as well.

Ultimately, Huggers’ ambitions for Vevo may not have been met by those of the company’s owners. The music video platform is jointly owned by Universal Music and Sony, with both Google and the Abu Dhabi Media Group holding a minority stake.

The labels have long had a contentious relationship with Google, alleging that the company doesn’t pay enough for the use of their music. However, Vevo’s distribution agreement with YouTube has resulted in a steady stream of revenue for the labels, and Vevo-supplied music has been a big boon for YouTube’s viewing numbers as well. Earlier this year, Vevo disclosed that more than 40 percent of YouTube’s U.S. audience was tuning into Vevo videos in a given month.

Google is currently in negotiations with the labels for a new music service, while Vevo’s contract with YouTube is up for renewal early next year. The outcome of those negotiations could shape the future of Vevo, and determine whether the company will scale back the work on owned-and-operated products it started under Huggers.

Here’s the full memo departing CEO Erik Huggers sent to staff Friday:

“Dear all,

During the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to step down as Chief Executive Officer as we close out a record breaking year.

While I am a big believer in the growth opportunities of the direction we have discussed at recent Town Hall meetings, I also think that now is the perfect time for someone new to lead this next chapter for Vevo.

I am leaving you in the capable hands of Alan Price as interim CEO. Effective immediately, the shareholders have appointed him to this role while they conduct a search for my permanent replacement. Please support Alan during this time of transition.

When I reflect on nearly three years with Vevo, I cannot help but to feel very proud of the transformation that we have achieved together. Whether you look at financial performance, audience engagement, editorial output, product experience, brand recognition, impact and exposure in the market place, etc. By all those indicators Vevo is a much stronger company today.

Thank you for your trust, passion and incredible work. There is only one fitting way to try to express how I truly feel about the people @vevo and that’s via this Music Video. It has been a real honor to lead this fun and talented team and I wish you every success in the future!!

All the best,

Erik”

Update: 1:22pm: This post was updated with Erik Huggers’ memo to staff.

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