NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apologies for the poor quality video. I shot it myself and, obviously didn't do a very good job. That said, pump up the volume and listen to this snippet of an interview I conducted with Pandora (P) co-founder and former Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren early in 2013:
Offices are bad for company culture ...
Those words came from Westergren. Not me. And they were true. I saw it with my own eyes during visits to Pandora's Oakland headquarters.But it wasn't just Westergren in a cubicle instead of a private office. The company's former CEO Joe Kennedy did the same. In fact, for a time, he sat right next to Westergren, who sat next to Mollie Starr, Pandora's Director of Corporate Communications. Starr's assistant sat next to her. So they all basically sat across from one another. It was pretty cool to see and, as I was told by every Pandora employee I asked, it was a proud part of the Pandora way. No matter your title you sat out on the office floor in a cubicle space next to people who may or may not be of your same rank. That was in January/February 2013. And, while people moved around as Pandora expanded, they maintained this no office, we all have a cubicle approach. Or so I thought. Sources close to the situation tell me that the company's new CEO, Brian McAndrews, sits in a private office, not out in the close-knit cubicle areas with Pandora's rank and file. So, the man who Westergren told me was the clear choice for the job, appears to disagree with his co-founder (and former Chief Strategy Officer) on the issue of company culture. I received confirmation of this development from Pandora's VP of Corporate Communications, Will Valentine, late Monday: I have emailed Westergren for comment, but have yet to receive a reply. The no office no matter who you are deal was one of the things that impressed me about Pandora. But I guess that's gone now.
While I can see why some might not think it's that big of a deal (though I do), it speaks to much of what I have been writing lately with respect to Pandora's culture and what it's doing and not doing to pave the way for the future.
Certainly a fair bit of my analysis along these lines is my opinion. However, it is absolutely not pure conjecture. People on the inside are talking. And they're independently corroborating what the other is saying. Simply put, McAndrews has not been good for the culture at Pandora. And, IMO, he hasn't been good for the business either.
As such, it should not come as a surprise that Westergren's official role has been reduced (though the company tells me he's as much in the game as ever) and outgoing CTO Tom Conrad decided to take the money and run. Don't be surprised to see more Pandora employees cash out. While I can't blame them for selling stock as it vests -- particularly after P's run -- there's more to the story than that. I'm piecing it together, but, obviously people who work at Pandora are reluctant to say too much, if anything at all. As more and more put additional money in the bank, lips will loosen. Culture helped build Pandora. There's no law that says it can't kill it.
Hire for culture first. Eric Bieschke (@ericbke) February 11, 2014Follow @rocco_thestreet --Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
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