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​Sonos CEO resigns amid high competition

John MacFarlane passes the baton to company President Patrick Spence as the smart speaker startup fights competition from Google and Amazon.

Sonos makes smart speakers, like this Play:5.
Sarah Tew/CNET

John MacFarlane, CEO and co-founder of smart speaker company Sonos, said Tuesday he's stepping down. MacFarlane led the company for 15 years but faced increased competition from companies like Google and Amazon over the past couple of years.

"There are no typical transitions of leadership, especially for founder-led companies where the strength lies in a central interpretation of the culture that is essential for the formation and development of a new company in a complex and rapidly changing environment," MacFarlane wrote in a blog post. "However, the culture must move beyond the founder, and that's a unique path for every company."

Sonos' new CEO will be Patrick Spence, who has been with the company for four years. He first served as Sonos' chief commercial officer then became company president last July.

Sonos has struggled over the last year as it's faced increased competition from tech giants releasing their own versions of smart speakers, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. MacFarlane announced a change in company strategy last March with a focus on paid streaming services and voice control. At that time, Sonos also laid off employees.

Spence is expected to continue Sonos' push into music streaming and voice control. MacFarlane said the company will also continue working on home Wi-Fi and partnering with other companies. The former CEO said he'll remain a Sonos employee and adviser.

"The smart home is on the cusp of becoming an experience beyond early tech adoption," MacFarlane wrote in the blog post. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading."

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