SXSW CEO Roland Swenson Has New Executive Chairman Title; Jann Baskett And Hugh Forrest Promoted To Co-Presidents

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The SXSW Conference and Festivals said Monday that event co-founder Roland Swenson’s title is now Executive Chairman, while Chief Brand Officer Jann Baskett and Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest become co-presidents assuming day-to-day leadership of the company. 

Swenson’s new role includes continued guidance over the business including an active role on the board of directors, which includes investor Jay Penske and other executives from Deadline parent PMC, while Baskett and Forrest will take on leadership as the company looks forward to new growth opportunities, including the launch of SXSW Sydney in Australia next October.

“When we started SXSW in 1987 we dreamt big, but I’m not sure we imagined that the event would become the global gathering that it is today,” Swenson said. “I’m so proud to see how the event has grown since the early days and am excited to move to a position that will allow me to focus on the aspects of SXSW that I’m the most passionate about. I’m also pleased to shift the running of the company to Jann and Hugh. I believe their proven leadership will mobilize us as we move into the future.” 

Both Baskett and Forrest will also continue in their current roles, shepherding their departments through next year’s event.

“At SXSW, our purpose is to help creative people achieve their goals. After joining SXSW as Chief Brand Officer in 2016, I’ve been honored to make that a year-round priority and look forward to carrying out Roland’s vision by continuing this work,” said Baskett. “Expanding our brand and ensuring that SXSW remains an inspiring experience for our participants is essential for us.”

Added Forrest: “Overseeing the programming at an event like SXSW has provided a unique opportunity to connect with both our staff and our community, and I’m excited about expanding those connections and looking to the future of our business. Being a part of SXSW affords us the opportunity to cultivate unique experiences around the world and as we expand on that goal, we continue to be in a positive position to elevate diverse and innovative voices across a variety of industries.” 

Other members of the executive leadership team are co-founder and director Nick Barbaro, Chief Culture & People Officer Autumn Amescua, Chief Technology Officer Justin Bankston, Chief Logistics Officer Michele Flores and Chief Financial Officer Sheri Furley, plus Executive Vice President Darin Klein and Executive Vice President, Operations Support Frank Schaefer.

The news today is the latest change out of the Austin-based organization, whose next SXSW Film & TV Festival is set for March 10-19, 2023. Earlier this month, Janet Pierson, the longtime VP and director of the festival, stepped back into an emeritus director role with her deputy Claudette Godfrey taking over leadership duties.



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