Neil Portnow
Michael Zorn/Invision/AP
United States

Neil
Portnow

From playing bass in his Long Island high school garage band, The Savages, to leading the annual Grammy Awards ceremony as President/CEO of The Recording Academy, Neil Portnow has dedicated his career to music, musicians and education. 

Portnow graduated George Washington University in 1971 and got his start as a record producer and music supervisor, later joining RCA Records as staff producer. Stints as VP A&R at Arista and EMI America led to Jive Records, where he spent a decade-plus running their West Coast operation, rising to VP and guiding the Zomba Label Group’s roster, which included some of pop music’s most successful acts ever, among them: Britney Spears and NSYNC. 

In Nov. 2002, Portnow became President of the then-National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), replacing the contentious Michael Greene, and proceeded to kick the much-criticized Grammy Awards ceremony into the 21st century by changing the voting process to ensure the results didn’t cause embarrassment (like Jethro Tull winning the first heavy metal award). Portnow put his stamp on the institution by supporting the organization’s MusiCares foundation and opening the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles in 2008, followed by additions in Cleveland, Mississippi, Nashville and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Portnow helped the Grammys celebrate its 60th anniversary with by moving it to New York’s Madison Square Garden, where it hadn’t been held since 2003, and allowed for all voting to move online. He stepped down from his position in July 2019.

Career

  • EMI Music
  • The Recording Academy
  • Jive Records

Education

  • George Washington University (DC, USA)

Variety Honors

  • 2017 Variety500 Honoree
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News from Variety

Recording Academy Narrows Search to Replace Neil Portnow

Recording Academy Narrows Search to Replace Neil Portnow

The Recording Academy has narrowed its pool of candidates to succeed outgoing chairman/president Neil Portnow to a shortlist of “three to five” finalists, with the Academy now focusing exclusively on executives at the CEO level, sources tell Variety. The next Recording Academy chief is expected to be named in late May, with Portnow staying on through the transition period, although it was unclear how long that period might last.The CEO requirement, if accurate, would seem to eliminate many previously speculated candidates...

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