I should be checking the Pono Kickstarter page whenever I write and update on their project. A reader alerted me to the changes that have been made at the helm of the Pono organization. The former CEO John Hamm is out as CEO and Neil Young himself is now the official CEO. An announcement at the company’s KS page titled, “Neil Young Steps Into CEO Role At PonoMusic” came as quite a surprise to me.
“PonoMusic has been a mission of mine for many, many years, and I’m more passionate than ever about the prospects for its success. I want to use my time and abilities to bring the fullness of music, as the artists created it, to as many music fans as possible.” So Neil Young is not only the head musician in charge of bringing back great fidelity to music fans but he steps in to run the corporate operation as well.
The announcement also included the elevation of the former outside counsel to the role of COO. “Rick Cohen, who will be responsible for the operational side of the business, has been PonoMusic’s outside general counsel since its inception – and a special advisor to Neil for over a decade. He is an attorney with a deep business experience, having been the Chief Executive Officer of the California Teacher’s Retirement System, which at the time was the eighth largest pension fund in the U.S., with assets over $12 billion.
“I am thrilled to be taking on this role, and will work closely with Neil and the extraordinary PonoMusic team as we prepare for our consumer launch later this year” said Mr. Cohen.
I haven’t corresponded with John Hamm in over two months (I spent some time with him at the AXPONA Show in late April in Chicago) and the announcement assures supporters that he remains an investor in Pono. But I have to wonder what transpired since the last email that I received. It described the craziness of finding senior level people to assist in the running of the company (these include Bruce Botnick as Head of Content Acquisition), securing a space for the new company and finishing the design of the Pono player. It turns out that the demo units that existed were the prototypes that were built by Meridian. Thankfully, they new Ayre designed Pono players are coming along now.
I won’t speculate on what could have happened. But it seems something shook up Pono after their very successful KS campaign. There are the typical niceties on the removal of John in the announcement.
“John Hamm will be stepping down as CEO of the company. ‘I appreciated the opportunity to lead the company and support Neil’s mission. I remain an investor in the company and look forward to the continued success of the movement’ said Mr. Hamm.”
‘We thank John for his efforts in advancing the company and its product for market launch’ said Mr. Cohen.”
I look forward to chatting with John and asking what he can tell me about the shakeup. If I’m able, I will share what I can. My gut tells me this does not bode well for their player.