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Pandora Not Happy With Criticism As 'Regular Radio' Lives Again

Stocks in this article: P

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When I was the lone bullish voice on Pandora (P), the company did nothing but lavish praise.

As the stock languished in the teens and single digits throughout late 2011 and 2012 and much of 2013, I explained the company's business model to anybody who would listen (and then laugh). Read the articles at the links. I got everything -- other than the demise of Sirius XM (SIRI) (!!) -- right.

My unique insight on Pandora prompted co-founder Tim Westergren and other top executives at the company to say things like this to me:

Nobody understands what we're doing as well as you. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that you have a background in radio. You're able to understand and see the power of our model while others, lacking that experience, cannot.

Paraphrasing a bit there, but that's pretty close to exactly what Westergren said to me on more than one occasion in 2013.

Fast forward to 2014 and my radio sense (I worked in broadcast radio for roughly a dozen years starting as a teenager) doesn't seem to hold as much weight with Pandora as it did between 2011 and 2013. Suddenly, I know not of what I speak. In Pandora's eyes, I've changed (and gone off my rocker). But it's not so much that I changed; it's just that Pandora hasn't.

I estimate I turned decidedly bearish on Pandora in mid-February 2014. (Since then the stock's down 38%). So now, in response to straightforward interview requests that seek answers from the company's seemingly invisible CEO, I get this flavor of wholly unprofessional reply (taken from an unedited email received from Pandora corporate communications on April 25, 2014 at 10:40 a.m. Pacific time):


Responding to your request for an interview. We'll get there, but we want to sit down first and air out some of the issues that are clearly on your mind. Some of your recent comments have concerned us and we want to get our relationship back on a more constructive footing. 

There was a long, healthy, open dialogue between you and Pandora and we don't understand why it has taken such a turn for the worse, particularly as we continue to successfully execute a strategy to be the leading internet radio provider. 

Before you sit down with our senior executives, we need to establish a more constructive basis for our relationship. I hope we can set up a meeting soon to hit the reset button.  Sound good?


In other words, we once felt like we had you in our back pocket, but we don't feel that way anymore. As such, we need to reel you in before we give you access.

That's telling on several levels and absolutely material to investors. You need to know if Pandora ducks engagement simply because I turned bearish. Why won't they let Brian McAndrews (he's the CEO) answer questions about data? Are they worried that he's incapable of having the conversation?

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