Vanessa Picken to replace Denis Handlin as CEO of Sony Music Australia

It comes a year after Handlin was ousted from the role

Sony Music Australia and New Zealand have announced Vanessa Picken will replace former chairman and chief executive Denis Handlin, almost a year after he was ousted from the role following five decades working for the company and 37 years in the top job.

Picken, who will begin her new role in September, will be the company’s first-ever female boss. Picken previously worked for EMI in Australia, launched the digital agency Comes With Fries, and currently heads independent label [PIAS] in Los Angeles. In a statement, Picken commented that she was “delighted to be coming home” to “take the company into a transformative next chapter”.

“Our strategies will focus on music, allyship, and innovation, with a global mindset,” Picken continued. “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.

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We will reaffirm our commitment to the discovery and development of new and emerging talent across both countries, as well as expanding the commercial and creative opportunities for our roster of artists locally and internationally.”

Handlin’s abrupt dismissal last year came a week after reports emerged that Sony Music’s head office in the United States was investigating allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the Australian office.

In October, an episode of ABC’s Four Corners program detailed accusations of misconduct a toxic workplace that are alleged to have occurred under Handlin’s tenure, with over 100 current and former employees of Sony Music Australia being interviewed for the exposé.

In a statement to Four Corners, Handlin wrote: “I have always provided support and encouragement to women in the industry and personally championed diversity”.

“I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate or discriminatory manner,” he said. “At any time I was made aware of this sort of behaviour I took action to ensure that it was stopped and didn’t occur again.”

Along with his departure from Sony Music Australia, Handlin was also removed from his role as chair of the ARIA board. Following the Four Corners programme, Handlin had several of his accolades stripped, including his honorary Queensland Music Award, his ARIA Icon Award, and his APRA AMCOS Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services.

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