Peter Lynch used to say, “the person that turns over the most rocks wins the game.” The revolving door of executive management changes sometimes seems to fit that sentiment. New strategies and new people come and go as individual and company both seek new challenges and new perspectives in the pursuit of their goals. Over the past couple of weeks, from Warner Music (NYSE:WMG) to Atari (PINK:ATAR) to NBCU/GE (NYSE:GE) to Facebook, even Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) Crackle, there have been a handful of high profile leadership changes.
Facebook recently lost chief revenue officer and COO Owen Van Natta. His departure left a void in the experienced leadership column for the high profile social network. To fill the gap and add a figurehead with the balance of brains, expertise and managerial skill, they’ve lured away Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) VP of Global Online Sales and Operations Sheryl Sandburg.
At Facebook, Sheryl will fill Van Natta’s shoes as COO and be the number two to founder Mark Zuckerberg. With 6 years at Google running the AdWords and AdSense programs, she has significant experience developing online advertising initiatives. As the former Chief of Staff to the U.S. Treasury Secretary under Clinton, she also brings political skills; something probably helpful in being in a number two role below an inexperienced CEO.
Sheryl will join the company as Chief Operating Officer starting March 24, 2008. She’ll likely have her work cut out for her. For all Facebook’s accolades, there remain questions about the popular social network’s ability to monetize their services. Despite the company’s successes in web traffic, and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s impressive list of investors and advisers, the company hasn’t yet proven they can draw gold from their audience. Sheryl will be tasked with answering those questions. She’ll manage sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications.
INFOGRAMES [ATARI]/Sony Computer Entertainment
Last week, Phil Harrison surprised many in the gaming world by resigning from his role as head of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment. He had been instrumental there in working on games and business development for the Playstation gaming platform and seemed to be leaving just as the PS3 is starting to gain market share.
Infogrames was originally built by Bruno Bonnell; partly through the acquisition of smaller gaming properties. One of the core assets was once famed game property Atari (now a U.S. subsidiary of Infogrames). In 2007, Bonnell resigned and the company began a process of reinvention that included selling of many game franchises, redefining itself as a publisher/distributor, and seeking new leadership.
In February the company hired Electronic Arts (ERTS) alumni David Gardner to serve as CEO. Harrison is the second major hire. He will serve under Gardner as president. He’ll be tasked with building studio capability and increasing publishing activity. Both Harrison and Gardner will also sit on the company’s board of directors.
Warner has been shaking things up with what appears to be a slight overhaul of their digital strategy team. The first change was announced at the end of February when the company reported that EVP of Digital Strategy and Business Development Alex Zubillaga would step down effective June 1st. In his place, they have promoted Sr. VP of Digital Strategy Michael Nash.
Nash, who’s been at Warner since 2000, was called a “Visionary” by Atlantic monthly. He is credited with making a significant contribution to the company’s digital realignment (in Q1 ’08 approximately 14% of total revenue and 22% of total U.S. recorded revenue came from digital sales. That result gave the company the greatest digital to physical album share ratio of all the Big 4 recording labels).
Beth Comstock shuffled from corporate parent GE to NBC/Universal in 2005 to serve as president of digital media and market development under then CEO Bob Wright. In February 2007, she became president of integrated media during a reshuffle initiated by new CEO Jeff Zucker.
Now Comstock will shuffle back again, this time completing the loop with a return to GE. Starting March 10th, she’ll return to GE to take on marketing, sales and communications initiatives for “cross business digital initiatives.” The initial focus area will be health markets and environmental technologies.
Sony bought net video startup Grouper in 2006 for $65m in the hopes of making a YouTube of their own. When that proved fruitless, they dropped the concept and rebranded it as a video network called Crackle last year. Now, they’ve dropped the original founders Josh Felser and Dave Samuel and promoted Jonathon Shambroom to SVP and General Manager. Shambroom was already overseeing product development and marketing at Crackle. He had been in that role since 2005.