Pandora marketing director exits amid separate claims of corporate bullying

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 18 May 2016

Pandora marketing director Nicole McInnes has left the music platform suddenly. Her exit coincides with news emerging out of the New Zealand office of accusations of corporate bullying by Pandora AU/NZ senior leadership. The music network's managing director is Jane Huxley.

AdNews understands there are four separate lawsuits currently in motion involving former employees of Pandora Australia and New Zealand, although Pandora has denied that this is the case. One of those is understood to be former Pandora New Zealand commercial director Melanie Reece, who resigned at the end of 2015.

NZ trade title StopPress is reporting that Reece has filed a personal grievance case against Pandora. 

The site also quotes Reece saying that the environment at Pandora became “toxic” and that MD Jane Huxley’s managerial style could sometimes be described as “corporate bullying".

AdNews should clarify that these accusations are being made in StopPress and have not been made to AdNews. Pandora has told AdNews the claims are “baseless and without merit.”

Former marketing director McInnes is not part of any legal actions against Pandora but confirmed to AdNews that she had resigned from Pandora a week ago. It's been speculated that similar reasons could be behind McInnes sudden exit, however, she declined to comment further on the situation saying only that she was “sad to leave, but looking forward to a new opportunity”.

She is thought to be taking on a consumer marketing role outside of the media industry. McInnes, who has 25 years experience in marketing, joined Pandora as marketing director in November 2015. Prior to that she was CMO at Adshel.

Pandora is currently growing its marketing team and two weeks ago began advertising for a group marketing director position which would sit above McInnes' previous role. This could have contributed to McInnes' decision to move on. 

Last week Pandora appointed Fiona Roberts as NSW and QLD sales director and recently hired Stephen Murdoch to handle CRM marketing. It is also set to take on a PR and social media exec and a trade marketer.

The music platforms growing fast and like most startup-style organisations is gaining scale and evolving at a fast pace. Its staff churn rate is thought to currently sit above 35%, according to one source close to the business, which is higher than even media agencies in this market. If that is the case, it could be indicative of a tough culture.

Others close to the business, who wished to remain anonymous, have moved to rebut the suggestions, emphasising that they don't reflect Pandora as they know it adding that it's an “exciting time” within the business.

StopPress also quotes Matthew Hunt, a former regional sales chief at Pandora who was also involved in legal action with Pandora, saying that Reece's experience is “consistent” with his own.

The NZ site goes on to quote Reece saying: “You usually think of bullying as someone slamming their fists on the table and yelling profanities at someone, [but] bullying can be setting up to fail. It can be setting targets that are unachievable. Bullying can be non-response to conflict, which is what happened to me.”

“Someone was clearly in trouble and asking for help, and rather than sort it out, they sent information through that they were backing the managing director and that they didn’t believe there’s a problem.”

In a statement Pandora issued to AdNews, it gives its full support to Huxley, who has led the business since its launch in Australia in 2012.

Sara Clemens, COO of Pandora, says: “Jane Huxley is a strong leader who has Pandora's full support. We work hard to create a diverse and inclusive work environment where each employee’s contribution is valued, and Jane has been instrumental in bringing that to life in both Australia and New Zealand.

“In the circumstances we part ways with employees, we respect their confidentiality. However the themes in this story are baseless and without merit.”

A statement also came from Chris Freel, Pandora ANZ commercial director, who has been with the business six months and joined from Fairfax. He said: “In my first six months at Pandora I have been overwhelmed by the support of Jane and the team, both locally and in the US. We are building a company that is at an exciting point in its growth curve and is gaining strong traction with the music community, the Australian public and marketing community. We have a fantastic team, united behind a clear and transparent vision and excited about the growth we are generating in all areas. This is a very exciting and inspiring place to be.”

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