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Sonos CEO Steps Down After 14 Years Due To Heated Smart Speaker Competition

11 January 2017, 5:56 am EST By Chris Loterina Tech Times
Sonos' John MacFarlane has already tendered his resignation after 14 years serving as the company's CEO. He will also relinquish his board seat, merely staying as a mentor for the company's employees.  ( Sonos )

One can say that Sonos is one of the companies currently in an unenviable position of being located between rock and a hard place. There is the pressure posed by competition such as Google and Amazon, possibly contributing to the reasons why its CEO stepped down after 14 years serving in that post.

Sonos' CEO Departure

The official position is that John MacFarlane, CEO and co-founder of Sonos, will depart because the company needs a new culture.

"There are no typical transitions of leadership, especially for founder-led companies where the strength lies in a central interpretation of the culture that is essential for the formation and development of a new company in a complex and rapidly changing environment," MacFarlane said. "However, the culture must move beyond the founder, and that's a unique path for every company."

What is interesting is that MacFarlane has also stepped down as a member of the Sonos' board. As reported by the New York Times, he stressed that this particular move is meant to ensure that his successor would not feel like he would be looking over his shoulder.

Patrick Spence, who has been Sonos' president and chief commercial officer, was tapped as MacFarlane's replacement.

New Direction For Sonos

MacFarlane has been steering the company towards smart speakers, voice control and music streaming to deal with products introduced by Google and Amazon.

It is worth noting that Sonos, under his leadership, was able to sail through the challenges posed by Apple and Bose.

Spence is expected to continue his predecessor's more recent initiatives. However, his ascendancy could signal a different path for Sonos in some respects. MacFarlane has zealously maintained the company's independence, pushing back against the trend in the tech world to go public and raise money from investors.

Sonos' Future

To say, however, that Sonos is struggling and is in decline owing to the onslaught of competing smart speakers will not be accurate. The company has amassed a loyal customer base and is reportedly raking in around $1 billion in sales.

Save for Google and Amazon's round of layoffs early this year, observers should note that there are no other compelling reasons for MacFarlane's departure.

To underscore this, he has stressed that he has been angling for retirement several years ago and was only forced to stay to help Sonos counter the emergence of the new generation of competitors. MacFarlane's wife is also battling breast cancer so he appears bent on spending time with his family.

As MacFarlane stated, however, Sonos needs a new direction and his departure will facilitate that goal.

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