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Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff Heads for the Door (Memo)

After running the giant video joint venture for six years, Caraeff says he "will take a moment to clear my head."

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Rio Caraeff, who has run the Vevo music video service since its creation in 2009, is leaving at the end of the year.

Caraeff told his staff last night about his plans via an email, which you can read below. Vevo, which is predominantly controlled by Sony Music and Universal Music Group, is now looking for a new CEO. In the meantime, CFO Alan Price will run the company.

In his memo to his employees, Caraeff says he doesn’t have immediate plans to find a new job. “I will take a moment to clear my head,” he wrote.

Vevo has yet to turn a profit, but it is very big: It’s now generating eight billion views a month, with the bulk of those occurring on YouTube. Earlier this year, Vevo’s owners put the company up for sale, then changed their minds. Some digital investors are still hoping they change their minds again.

Caraeff’s departure won’t be a surprise to the music industry. His contract expired at the end of this year, and earlier this year he moved from New York City to his native Los Angeles.

More significantly, he had already been looking at other options. At one point this year Caraeff was deep in discussions to run the media business for camera-maker GoPro, according to people familiar with the company. CBS veteran Zander Lurie ended up taking that job this month.

In many ways, Caraeff’s tenure at Vevo was similar to Jason Kilar’s run at Hulu — both men helped build, and nurture, giant joint ventures controlled by companies that often feuded with each other.

Vevo’s case was additionally complicated by the fact that Google, its partner (and eventually an investor) had an uneasy relationship with the company. Vevo’s music videos are very important to Google’s YouTube, but YouTube executives would have preferred working directly with the videos owners, instead of Vevo.

Here’s Caraeff’s memo to his staff. The leak he references led to this story in the New York Post last night, which broke the news of his departure (but ran a photo of some other random white guy instead of Caraeff).

Due to an ill timed leak which has led to a pending story in the press, I have decided to send this letter out to the company in advance of my planned announcement on Monday so that you hear about it first from me directly.
There are times in life when there is no other way to say it other than to just come out with it. So here goes..
After nearly 6 years, I have decided to depart Vevo at the end of this year.
I care very deeply about the company that along with many of you, I helped to get off the ground. I love her and will miss her but even more so, I will miss you all.
Our company celebrates its 5th birthday next month and that is as fitting a time as any for a change.
To thrill and delight music fans around the world has always been our purpose. To bring music video to more people, in more places and in the highest quality possible was always our mission. And we have been through a heck of a lot together. My mind races thinking about all of the great products we have shipped, the countries we have grown into, and all of the shows and incredible programming that we’ve produced.
I am proud of our Product & Tech team and the very first app that we developed and launched, which was for the iPhone in 2010. I also am very proud of our first app for TV, which was on Xbox. Our AppleTV app is still my personal favorite to use but what makes that one even more rewarding is knowing the back story of just how hard that we worked on it and how long it took just to get that deal done and that app launched (years!).
I am proud of our Sales, Research, Revenue Ops and International teams and everything that they have accomplished – it is continually awe inspiring and amazing to me that we have built (from scratch!) such a world class team across the US, UK and Germany and a network of successful partnerships around the globe. It’s hard to believe (but completely true) that there was a time when we had no revenue or sales teams and had to set about building it all from nothing.
I am proud of our Marketing, Event & Programming teams for the many premieres, original shows and incredible events that we have pulled off over the years around the globe. Vevo Presents Kanye West (ft Jay-Z) live from Austin at SXSW is probably my all time favorite show that we’ve ever produced. Being in that abandoned power station and walking out of there somewhere between 4 and 5am after a blistering series of performances culminating with Kanye and Jay was something that I will never forget.
I am proud of our Business, Finance & HR teams, for being the oft-unsung heroes and doing so much heavy lifting that most of the company is not aware of every day. From going to battle fearlessly in some very tough negotiations behind the scenes, to making sure that rights owners, artists and songwriters get paid to assuring that we have a roof over our heads and cash in the bank, you guys and gals work tirelessly to make sure that it all comes together.
Looking back, we were able to successfully convince the entire industry to evolve and change the way that it had historically operated and to think about its customer differently. Restoring the value of music audiences and making them ultimately as valuable (if not more so) than those who love sports remains our goal.
We have won many battles and have lived to fight another day. Although there are many more to fight and much work to be done I know that you are all up for the task.
Making this decision was very hard but I know that the company is left in a very good place. Never before has she had such a deep bench of leadership and talent. Our company also enjoys the recently renewed support of our founding shareholders who have consistently demonstrated a prescient long-term vision that our business is core and strategic. That music audiences are tremendously valuable. That thrilling and delighting fans with great programming just makes sense.
While our Board works swiftly to hire a new CEO, it has asked Alan Price to step up and run the company as interim CEO together with our senior leadership team. The company is in truly great hands with this team who have my utmost respect and trust.
What is next for me? I do not yet know but I will take a moment to clear my head and when the time is right, my passion will guide and I will jump back in.
ps. An official press release will be sent out by our company on Monday morning which includes words of support from our shareholders and speaks to the leadership transition in detail.

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