When you think of Pandora, you probably think about ‘music genomes’ or your favorite artist-targeted station. But here’s another association: seriously rich executives, all of whom are working diligently to pay artists less.
Last week, we were tipped to a pattern of stock-dumping by founder Tim Westergren, to the tune of more than $9 million this year alone. That’s hard to reconcile with Westergren’s more grassroots appeal to lower artist royalties and save internet radio, an emotional pitch based partly on Westergren’s former life as a struggling musician.
The question is whether this sort of thing is worth saving, especially from a public policy standpoint. Pandora isn’t a profitable enterprise, and Westergren is arguing on Capitol Hill that unfairly-high royalties are threatening its long-term existence (as well as the internet radio sector as a whole). But regardless of whether Pandora makes it or not, this company has become a massive money tree for a very small group of executives. According to more documents discovered this week, the handful of Pandora brass has dumped about $63 million in shares in the past year alone, thanks largely to the lifting of a post-IPO selling restriction window.
All of these cash-outs are filed by law with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), and therefore publicly available. The pile of Pandora sales have been assembled by ‘SEC Form 4,’ a site that tracks insider trading activity (just part of page one is above). In addition to the sell-offs, Form 4 also finds Pandora executives buying less than $500,000 of their own shares over the same period. The math results in a net dump-off of nearly $62.8 million.
In an earlier discussion with Digital Music News, Westergren noted that lots of similarly-situated executives do the same thing, and underscored his bullishness in the company. Perhaps ‘bullish’ comes in degrees: Pandora is a troubled, low-lying stock with a very uncertain outlook, especially if Congress doesn’t play along. These executives seem to be acting accordingly. [DigitalMusicNews]