When Denis Handlin was exited from Sony Music Australia on Monday (June 21), a company he had led since the 1980s, the veteran executive admitted that he and his boss Rob Stringer had decided it was “time for a change.”

Denis Handlin left Sony Music as the longest serving employee globally, having spent more than 51 years with the company, including 37 years as leader of the domestic affiliate.

As previously reported, Sony Music Group CEO Stringer alerted staff to the bombshell news of Handlin’s departure by way of an international memo.

It has since emerged that, later in the day, Denis Handlin sent his own message in which he paid tribute to employees, mentors and artists.

“After 51 years I agreed with Rob Stringer that it’s time for a change,” reads Handlin’s memo, sent at 4.56 pm on Monday and obtained by TIO.

“We can all be proud that during this time Sony Music set the standard for philanthropic and charitable works.”

The outgoing Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Australia and New Zealand also highlighted the work of the Sony Foundation, which has raised upwards of $36 million to help those in need.

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A special all-star event celebrating Handlin’s 50-year anniversary with Sony Music Entertainment was set to take place in Sydney on May 7, with funds going to the Sony Foundation. A COVID-19 scare in the city ultimately forced organisers to postpone the party.

Handlin’s dramatic departure from Sony Music made headlines in mainstream media across the country, and continues to reverberate with at least two staff members reportedly stood down amidst a wider investigation into the company’s culture. Various anonymous staffers have spoken out on bad behaviour from within the company’s executive ranks, claims of which are reportedly the subject of a corporate inquiry.

In his own message, Stringer said it was “time for a change in leadership,” and that further announcements would be made in due course on the “new direction” of the music giant’s business in Australia and New Zealand.

Read Denis Handlin’s memo in full below.

Dear all,

I wanted to write to you all to say what an honour it has been to have spent over 50 years of my life at building and supporting Sony Music in Australia and New Zealand and 10 years putting Asia on a new successful path.

I have had great mentors, worked with some wonderful people throughout the company and enjoyed great friendships with the most talented artists here in Australia, New Zealand and internationally.

After 51 years I agreed with Rob Stringer that it’s time for a change. We can all be proud that during this time Sony Music set the standard for philanthropic and charitable works. The Sony Foundation has raised over $36 million that really has changed the lives of young Australians with cancer and disabilities and others facing homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency, exclusion from school, unemployment, metal illness, neglect and abuse. This includes ensuring all young Australians diagnosed with cancer have access to free fertility preservation services.

Thank you for all the calls and emails, we will catch up over the coming weeks.

All the best,

Denis