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Luminary names new CEO six months after troubled launch

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Luminary, the subscription podcast startup, named a new CEO today, almost six months to the day after the service’s troubled debut. The startup will now be led by Simon Sutton who comes from HBO where he served as president and chief revenue officer. Matt Sacks, a Luminary co-founder who served as CEO until now, will become the company’s executive chairman.

Sacks called the change a “perfect, positive, and transformative development for Luminary.” Luminary also announced that it has raised an additional $30 million in funding.

The executive changeup comes just weeks after Luminary co-founder and chief strategy officer Joe Purzycki left the company. He was replaced with an executive from Jet.com.

After a wave of hype for its star-studded podcast offerings, Luminary got off to a rocky start after it managed to anger many in the podcasting community. The company’s business model — offering a free podcast listening app, with access to exclusive shows for $8 per month — frustrated existing podcast creators who felt their successful shows were being used to prop up someone else’s business, of which they wouldn’t get a cut.

Luminary has continued to publish new shows from major hosts — such as celebrities Lena Dunham, Trevor Noah, and Karamo Brown — on a regular basis. But the company hasn’t disclosed subscriber or listenership numbers, and its ranking in the App Store is below 200 in the entertainment category. (Most other podcast apps appear to be ranked in the news category, making it hard to compare.)

The troubled launch and potentially poor pickup of users seem to be precursors to this change coming not long into the app’s life. Sutton doesn’t appear to plan any major changes to Luminary just yet. In a statement, he says he thinks “Luminary has the right model for the future.”