It’s official: SoundCloud may sell this year – but only if the firm’s board can find the “right long-term” buyer. Otherwise? It might do something altogether different.
In conversation with MBW, SoundCloud’s CEO, Eliah Seton, today stressed that there is a “universe of opportunities” now available to the company he leads, after it became profitable in 2023.
“Becoming a profitable growth company was mission-criticial to finally realizing the opportunity that’s available to SoundCloud,” said Seton. “[By becoming profitable] we’ve put ourselves in the driver’s seat. For the first time, we control our own destiny”.
When pressed on what that ‘destiny’ might look like – following reports that SoundCloud has started engaging with investment banks over a potential sale – Seton added: “To realize the commercial opportunity ahead of us, now is the time to consider all potential strategic alternatives.
“That may mean SoundCloud being acquisitive, [buying] things ourselves. It may mean raising new capital; it may mean [striking] new strategic or financial partnerships, or a combination of the two. Or it may mean the sale of the company to the right long-term partner.”
“To realize the commercial opportunity ahead of us, now is the time to consider all potential strategic alternatives. That may mean [SoundCloud] being acquisitive, buying things ourselves. It may mean raising new capital; it may mean [striking] new strategic or financial partnerships, or a combination of the two. Or it may mean the sale of the company to the right long-term partner.”
Eliah Seton, SoundCloud
Whichever outcome is in SoundCloud’s future, says Seton, “it requires the best possible team to go and execute”.
Which brings us to today’s news: SoundCloud has hired former Kobalt executive Tom Sansone as its new CFO/COO, effective immediately.
Sansone, who reports to Seton at SoundCloud, brings more than 20 years of global financial and operational experience with him across tech and music industries.
Notably, Sansone would presumably have been involved in four major transactions during his seven years as CFO of Kobalt Music Group:
- (i) The sale of Kobalt Capital’s ‘Fund I’ to Hipgnosis Songs Fund for $323 million in November 2020;
- (ii) The sale of Kobalt Capital’s ‘Fund II’ to KKR and Dundee Partners for around USD $1.1 billion in October 2021;
- (iii) The sale of recorded music business AWAL (plus Kobalt Neighbouring Rights) from Kobalt to Sony Music in February 2021 for $430 million; and
- (iv) The majority-acquisition of Kobalt’s music publishing business (plus AMRA) for approximately $750 million to Francisco Partners in September 2022.
Update: Tom Sansone led the AWAL transaction in 2021. Although he was CFO of Kobalt from 2016-2022, Kobalt has confirmed that the Kobalt Fund I and Kobalt Fund II deals were led by Kobalt Capital CEO Johan Ahlström; the 2022 Francisco Partners investment in Kobalt, meanwhile, was led by Kobalt’s current CFO, Catrin Drabble, alongside the Kobalt management team.
According to Sky News, SoundCloud’s current owners – including Raine Group and Temasek – are looking at a potential $1 billion-plus price-tag if a sale of the platform does happen in the months ahead.
Prior to joining Kobalt in 2016, Tom Sansone was COO and CFO of online shopping/lifestyle company Gilt Groupe for eight years, where he led the company through a period of significant growth.
Sansone left Gilt Groupe in Q2 2016, after the announcement that the company was to be acquired by Hudson’s Bay Company – owner of Saks Fifth Avenue – for $250 million.
Earlier in his career, Sansone worked for Arthur Anderson and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities for SoundCloud. The evolution of the business has been exciting to see and the company remains one of the most trusted brands for creators and super fans of music discovery.”
Said Seton: “On behalf of the Board of Directors and management of SoundCloud, I want to welcome Tom to the team. Tom is a proven global executive with a highly differentiated and relevant skill set that includes accelerating business transformation, establishing operational and financial discipline and executing strategic alternatives.
“Now that we are a profitable growth company and in control of our own destiny, Tom will be a key partner in helping us realize SoundCloud’s unique opportunity and industry-changing vision.”
Said Sansone: “I am passionate about helping businesses realize their potential and am incredibly excited about the opportunities for SoundCloud. The evolution of the business has been exciting to see and the company remains one of the most trusted brands for creators and super fans of music discovery. I’m looking forward to working with an incredible leadership team and Board to execute on the strategy to empower artists and fans to share and connect through music and to build on our strong financial footing,”
Sansone will be based in SoundCloud’s office in New York City.
He serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of Blair Academy and as an investor, advisor, partner and board member to a series of start-up companies.
SoundCloud’s former CFO, Drew Wilson, is understood to have left the company.
MBW revealed shortly before the end of 2023 that SoundCloud was on course to post its first ever EBITDA-profitable year.
In mid-December, the firm’s internal guidance showed that was projecting annual revenues of EUR €288 million (USD $310m) for calendar/fiscal 2023, up 7.5% YoY or 9% YoY at constant currency (USD).
SoundCloud also forecast a €2 million positive EBITDA for 2023, representing a significant improvement from the €29 million negative EBITDA the firm posted in 2022.
In May last year, SoundCloud announced it was laying off 8% of its global workforce – a move that affected around 40 employees.
At the time, Eliah Seton said: “This is a challenging but essential decision to ensure the health of our business and get SoundCloud to profitability this year.