Ledo co-founder claims she has been ‘thrown under the bus’ by Eelko van Kooten

Photo Credit: Jos Kottmann
Sarah Hildering (left), Music Rights Specialist & Co-founder/CEO and Eelko van Kooten (right), Owner & Co-founder, Ledo.

Earlier this month, MBW reported that Amsterdam-based distribution platform Ledo Music had fallen into bankruptcy, just two months after its public launch.

In the fortnight since that story broke, a fallout has taken place between the company’s co-founders, Sarah Hildering, and Eelko van Kooten.

The latter exec is well known in the music business as the co-founder of Spinnin’ Records, which was sold to Warner Music Group for more than $100 million in 2017.

van Kooten initially claimed to Dutch media that he was pushing Ledo into bankruptcy as a result of an unwarranted invoice from the company’s digital agency for approximately €1 million, which he likened to a “hostage situation”.

van Kooten has since publicly pointed his finger at Hildering, with a lawyer for the ex-Spinnin’ exec noting his “suspicions” that Hildering was somehow working in cahoots with the digital agency in question with the aim of taking ownership of Ledo.

Today (May 20) in a statement given to MBW, Hildering has strongly denied this suggestion, and says she is now fighting back against “false accusations and smears”.

Hildering claims the Ledo bankruptcy announcement “was just as sudden for me as it was for the other staff”.

“I have done nothing to deserve this. I have been thrown under the bus.”

Sarah Hildering

She says – despite the ‘co-founder’ tag – she was in fact an employee at Ledo from 2019 until April 28, this year when her contract was terminated due to the bankruptcy filing.

Hildering, who was a long-time exec at FUGA before joining Ledo, told MBW today: “I have never colluded with anyone and have always acted in accordance with the orders and wishes of Eelko van Kooten.”

She added: “I would like to set the record straight since it’s my wish to continue working in the music industry for a long time. I have done nothing to deserve this. I have been thrown under the bus by Eelko van Kooten after he bankrupted his own company because of a legal argument between him and an agency.”

In a fuller public statement, Hildering said: “I have decided to share a personal statement and set the record straight with regards to recent media coverage about Ledo and my role there, as some of the reporting has been extremely slanderous.

“A year and a half ago I was given an opportunity to be part of a business idea that would add value to the independent artists sector and because I have always been an advocate of creative freedom and the future of direct to artist platforms, I took this chance to work at Ledo.

“Up until the day that the bankruptcy was announced, the Ledo team and I worked very hard and with much success to launch an innovative business, with a lot of potential and with the belief of many more years ahead of us. To be clear, I was an employee of Ledo Music.

“My response to these false accusations and smears is simple: I have always acted with integrity.”

Sarah Hildering

“The bankruptcy announcement was just as much of a shock to me as it was to the other employees, so when the news broke, I tried to save the company by reaching out to potential investors. I do not know why, but I have since then been publicly accused of betrayal by Eelko van Kooten in the press. I have been intimidated and humiliating accusations have been made against me.

“My response to these false accusations and smears is simple; I have always acted with integrity and I have done nothing to deserve this slander. I have gone above and beyond to act in the best interests of my former employer Eelko van Kooten and Ledo.

“False information has been intentionally leaked to the media with the specific intent to damage my reputation and spirit. But the truth will always prevail.”

In an article posted in Holland’s De Telegraaf on May 14, van Kooten’s lawyer suggests that Hildering herself offered to pay the €1 million bill to Ledo’s digital agency, in exchange for taking over van Kooten’s shares in the business.

Hildering acknowledges that she did indeed make an offer for Ledo, but she claims this happened after she discovered the company was being pushed into bankruptcy by van Kooten. She says her offer was “immediately rejected” by the former Spinnin’ exec.

“I worked very hard for this company for a year and a half and did everything I could to make this platform a success,” Hildering told De Telegraaf of her Ledo tenure on May 14 (translated).

“The bankruptcy came completely unexpected to me. After hearing the news, I reached out to potential funders in my network who might want to save the platform in order to protect the artists and the employees. I don’t think an amount has ever been mentioned. I have always acted in good conscience and I have nothing to hide.”

In that same article, Bas van Dijen (Okkerse & Schop), the administrator of Ledo Music, confirms that – as of that date – he had not discovered any evidence of fraud, either from the digital agency in question or, by association, from Hildering.

Ledo Music remains in bankruptcy in Holland, with a trustee continuing to seek a potential acquirer.

Prior to joining Ledo Music in 2019, Sarah Hildering briefly worked at the interim Managing Director of Don Diablo’s record label Hexagon HQ.

She worked at FUGA from 2013 to 2019, most recently as head of sales and business development for Benelux & Scandinavia.Music Business Worldwide