Angel Gambino, the Bebo executive in charge of attracting record labels and musicians to the site, has resigned and she appears to be part of an executive exodus at the company following its $850 million acquisition by AOL.
Gambino, Bebo's global vice president of music and content, follows Bebo's founders Michael and Xochi Birch out the door. A source close to the situation said that at least two other Bebo managers are considering a departure.
Some critics of AOL's deal have worried that Bebo's teen audience may be turned off if the site becomes too buttoned-down as it goes corporate. The news comes as AOL scrambles to defend its purchase price. Earlier this week at the D conference, Time Warner's CEO Jeff Bewkes acknowledged that AOL "may have overpaid."
In an interview with CNET News.com, Gambino acknowledged that her Bebo stock had fully vested when the all-cash deal closed last week and the extra money will allow her to spend time with her young son.
She said that she jumped to Bebo a year ago from MTV to be part of a start-up and wants to be part of another. Another reason why Gambino said she is leaving is that developing Bebo's music offering was not AOL's highest priority.
"The priorities right now are integrating ICQ and AIM," Gambino said. "They are focusing on communication tools and integrating them into the platform. Music is on the agenda but it's not tops on the agenda."
While MySpace, YouTube, and Imeem have built up their music offerings, Bebo has stood on the sidelines. Imeem has licensed music from all the major recording companies and now offers a free streaming music service. YouTube has deals to offer rock videos and to allow users to insert music into their videos.
MySpace has partnered with the top four recording companies to offer streaming music, sell downloads, offer ad-supported music, as well as sell concert tickets.
"Bebo has been nowhere with music," said one music-industry insider. "They have a very music-hungry community, but they have not done anything with it. They went to the labels a year ago and said they had plans to formalize their approach to music. But nothing has happened."
Gambino said that was due to one thing: money.
"We weren't willing to pay the money that the labels expected for the licensing deals," Gambino said. "We didn't have the cash or the resources of a MySpace. We also didn't think having loads of back catalog would be that beneficial."
Instead, Bebo has gone with a more grassroots approach, catering to unsigned artists who were interested in showcasing their music on the site.
"We tried to be creative in offering new models," Gambino said. "We created some new models."
AOL and Bebo representatives could not be reached for comment.