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Recording Academy Narrows Search For New Chief, With Decision Expected This Spring

The search for Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow’s replacement is well underway with the selection committee moving into its second round of interviews with the finalists next week.

The week of Feb. 25, the selection committee, which is composed of 12 members of the Recording Academy’s board of trustees, interviewed the top candidates. Sources say there were around six to eight finalists, including at least one current member of the board. 

That number of first round candidates was winnowed down from the initial applicant pool by executive search firm Korn Ferry, which screened candidates who applied for the job, as well as recruited executives it felt could be a good match.

A smaller pool will move into the second round and then, after more cuts, at least one more round of interviews is expected. The remaining finalists will be presented to a special meeting of the board that will take place before the annual spring board of trustees meeting begins May 21. The voting for Portnow’s successor will take place at the special meeting. Portnow’s successor is expected to be named in the spring, depending upon how the negotiations go. It will be up to the new CEO if Portnow remains on board as a consultant to ease the transition after his contract ends.

Last May, when Portnow announced he was stepping down from his post at the end of July 2019, he reiterated his determination to have “a thoughtful, well-planned and collegial transition,” in contrast to when he took over the Recording Academy in 2002 after his predecessor, Mike Greene, abruptly resigned following allegations of sexual harassment. “My intention from the day I got the job, having lived through the previous transition that was rocky, was that on my watch it would be smooth and efficient,” Portnow told Billboard at an event Thursday night (March 7).

While Portnow is not sitting in on the interviews with candidates, he was involved in setting up the process, including updating the six-page job description from Korn Ferry that was used when he applied for the post. The process included “paying attention to the needs of the organization and making sure we were giving significant attention to diversity and inclusion,” he says.

Increasing inclusivity and diversity have been a primary focus for the Recording Academy since the formation last March of a task force led by Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff. In the ensuing year, the task force’s recommendations led the Academy to invite 900 new voting members, all of whom were women, people of color and/or under 35, as well as launch the Producer and Engineering Inclusion Initiative that calls for anyone involved in making records to consider at least two women as part of the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired.

Additional reporting by Gail Mitchell.


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