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Pono's mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite digital music.
Pono's mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite digital music.
18,220 backers pledged $6,225,354 to help bring this project to life.

Neil Young Steps Into CEO Role At PonoMusic


Rick Cohen becomes Chief Operating Officer of innovative music ecosystem dedicated to “reconnecting your soul to music” by delivering music from the best available sources - including straight from the original studio masters .

In addition the company hires legendary recording engineer Bruce Botnick as Head of Content Acquisition.

PonoMusic, who is building a portable player and an online store that will enable listeners to experience music as its most profound and elemental level, announced today that Neil Young, the founder and visionary behind the company, will become its CEO. Rick Cohen will become the Chief Operating Officer.

“PonoMusic has been a mission of mine for many, many years, and I’m more passionate than ever about the prospects for its success. I want to use my time and abilities to bring the fullness of music, as the artists created it, to as many music fans as possible.

”Rick Cohen, who will be responsible for the operational side of the business, has been PonoMusic’s outside general counsel since its inception – and a special advisor to Neil for over a decade. He is an attorney with a deep business experience, having been the Chief Executive Officer of the California Teacher’s Retirement System, which at the time was the eighth largest pension fund in the U.S., with assets over $12 billion. 

“I am thrilled to be taking on this role, and will work closely with Neil and the extraordinary PonoMusic team as we prepare for our consumer launch later this year” said Mr. Cohen .

The software and hardware teams within PonoMusic, led by Pedram Abrari and Phil Baker, respectively, will remain in place. Mr. Abrari, SVP of Technology, is a well-respected technology leader in Silicon Valley; Mr. Baker, VP of Product Development and Operations, has developed over 80 consumer technology products over many years of innovative work.

Bruce Botnik, whose storied career includes producing work with the Rolling Stones, the Doors and Love – as well as a partnership with film composer Jerry Goldsmith for over 100 movies – will be spearheading PonoMusic’s relationship with both large and independent labels. Content acquisition is core to the company’s strategic vision of a robust online store that enables PonoMusic’s extraordinary sound quality to transform as much music as possible.

John Hamm will be stepping down as CEO of the company. “I appreciated the opportunity to lead the company and support Neil’s mission. I remain an investor in the company and look forward to the continued success of the movement” said Mr. Hamm.

“We thank John for his efforts in advancing the company and its product for market launch” said Mr. Cohen.

Vickie Trancho, Sterling Wall, and 68 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      David S Fruechting on

      I'm with Bryn, Nick, Marsha, and Drew. This looks disturbingly unprofessional. Also, in the past when I have asked questions on the comment thread of a particular Update, someone from Pono Music has responded and answered the question. They are oddly silent, here. That certainly doesn't bode well.

      If you are concerned about this and, like me, feel it is possibly harbinger of failure, I recommend you do not go to the general comment thread accessed by the "Comments" button at the top of the page. There are a few egos who have basically commandeered the thread as their personal chat room, and some of them look a lot like shills for the PR department at Pono Music, making fun of anyone who expresses concern over this loss of business expertise and its replacement by a musician — an incredibly *fine* musician and beloved artist — to head an electronics firm.

      I am afraid that I have chosen unwisely and spent rent money on a company that may not deliver on its promise.

    2. Drew Karpinski on

      Something definitely went wrong here. There was no transition of leadership ever discussed, and in fact John Hamm's LinkedIn still has not been updated. The obligatory "thank you to John" comment at the end of the press release, by Mr. Cohen the corporate attorney, adds suspicion that there was some kind of event that precipitated this. In this age, though, I'm surprised that nothing has hit the web. Surely someone in the inside must know.

    3. Marsha Tyszler

      I must agree with others below that the above update is oddly concerning. It might be suitable for the general media, but us backers deserve to receive further information as to why there was a sudden change in various leadership roles. Moreover, I undoubtedly love Neil and know he's a smart guy, but I am concerned 1) whether his very hectic music career will allow him the proper time to serve as the CEO and 2) whether he has the professional experience to properly serve as the CEO of a corporation. I'd also like to know more about everyone else who was mentioned above and whether they can serve in their new roles.

      This update has unfortunately left me with many more questions than answers. There are often management changes in companies, but it's quite concerning that there has been a "shake-up" of sorts during Pono's infancy. We backed Pono feeling great about the team and their ability to fulfil their assigned roles in the company based upon the detailed info you provided to us regarding John Hamm's experience along with the rest of the higher management team. I'm sure the new Pono team feels confident, but many of us backers need to be reassured. Thus, we're asking that you share more than you have above. We may not technically be investors who get stock in your company, but each backer put hundreds and even thousands of our hard-earned dollars into trusting Pono . . . so I'm hoping you'll provide more of an explanation. We want to know that we can trust in you and feel confident in your ability to deliver on Pono's promises.

      I'm not trying to be negative . . . I'm just want what's best for Pono and to know that all is well in Pono Land! :-)

    4. Nick Hopewell-Smith on

      I'm with Bryn on this. I'm a great admirer of Neil Young, but it's a matter of record that we backed a company with him as its creative visionary, not its CEO. As far as external audiences are concerned, John Hamm has not put a foot wrong, so this rather vague statement merely raises questions, rather than providing answers. or reassurance,

    5. Missing avatar

      Louise Holmes on

      really looking forward to receiving our Patti Smith Pono ! Pleased to get updates re the organisation of company, etc etc. It shows a connection with the backers and a need for showing at least what is happening within the project.

    6. Bryn Griffith on

      Odd timing and somewhat unsettling.

    7. Missing avatar

      David S Fruechting on

      What exactly does this mean? Was this planned all along or is there trouble in the house?

    8. The Fly !!! on

      Aloha John !!! Fantastic launch !!! You will be missed !!! Peace :)

    9. Dan Williams on

      Congrats! Can't wait for my Pearl Jam Pono!!!!