Sony Music Australia has announced its first female CEO, Vanessa Picken. Picken’s appointment follows the ousting of disgraced former CEO Denis Handlin. This announcement comes just shy of a year since allegations of discrimination, bullying, and harassment shed light on a toxic work culture within Sony’s Aussie team. Handlin’s subsequent resignation ended the former CEO’s five-decade career, 37 years of which were spent as CEO — Sony’s longest-serving employee, globally.
Picken will become the company’s first-ever female boss when she steps into her new role in September. An industry veteran, Picken previously worked for EMI in Australia, launched the boutique digital agency Comes With Fries, and currently serves as the head of influential indie label [PIAS] in Los Angeles, California.
Vanessa Picken Aims to Take Sony Into a ‘Transformative Next Chapter’
A new report claims Sony Music knew of multiple abuse allegations for decades, including years of alleged workplace abuse from ousted Sony Australia CEO Denis Handlin. https://t.co/7Ju5Ink1VM
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) October 13, 2021
In a statement released in response to her historic hiring, Picken said she is “delighted to be coming home” and will “take the company into a transformative next chapter.”
Picken signalled what’s ahead for Sony Music Australia: “Our strategies will focus on music, allyship, and innovation, with a global mindset. Sony Music has a renowned reputation for empowering its artists and creators, breaking down traditional barriers to put them at the centre of everything it does.”
Picken’s emphasis on allyship and innovation will be a refreshing change from what The Guardian reported last June, detailing the company’s toxic “boys club” culture. The ABC’s Four Corners program went on to expose the depth of this toxic environment, drawing attention to widespread bullying and intimidation at Sony Music Australia under Handlin’s leadership.
During his extensive career with Sony, Handlin received several awards including the prestigious Ted Albert Award from APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) for “outstanding services to Australian music,” which has since been revoked. “APRA AMCOS is committed to fostering a music industry that upholds a high level of professional respect and conduct, and does not condone any form of bullying,” APRA said in a statement.