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Neil Portnow prepares to step down

The president and CEO will work with the Recording Academy board to ease the organisation out of his leadership and into the hands of someone new

By Molly Long on 01 Jun 2018

Neil Portnow with congresspeople and recording artists

L-R, Congressman Hoyer, Congresswoman Bono, Clint Black, Brenda Lee and Neil Portnow

image © Wikimedia Commons

After over 15 years of work with the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow will not seek renewal of his contract when it runs out in July 2019. Instead, the Academy has announced he will work closely with its board to prepare for a smooth transition into future leadership.

As well as seeking out the best leadership possible for the future of the Academy, the move also aims to ensure transparency and maintain good working practices within the organisation. With this, the Recording Academy, the operation behind the Grammys and MusiCares, hope to continue the success and longevity it has seen under Portnow.

This transitional period is something Portnow had previously promised to undertake. In a statement released by the Academy this week, Portnow reflected on his commitment: “When I had the honour of being selected to lead this great organisation in 2002, I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned collegial transition.”

The news comes comes after a particularly eventful, and at times turbulent, year for Portnow. This year has seen the expansion of the Grammys in China and MusiCares donate a record $5.9 million to members of the music industry.

“I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned collegial transition”

However, not everything has been so positive. In the continued momentum of last year’s #metoo movement, comments made by him backstage at the 2018 Grammys ended in calls for his resignation.

After only one solo female artist picked up a gong, Portnow had suggested women should “step up” if they wanted to be better represented in the music industry. In response, an open letter from some of the highest-ranking women in the music business, accused him of being “part of the problem.”

Attempting to explain his choice of words, Portnow suggested his comment was taken out of context: “Regrettably, I used two words, “step up,” that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.”

The Recording Academy supported Portnow throughout the debacle, and nothing of it was mentioned in the statement announcing his departure plans. Instead, the Academy chose to focus on the substantial list of achievements attained under Portnow’s direction.


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