Yahoo Gets Serious
Yahoo Inc. went searching for a CFO and selected former Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette global head of research Susan Decker. Decker takes over for the soon-to-retire Gary Valenzuela, who was profiled by CFO in April.
Glenn A. Forbes has been groomed for the corporate office of Westport, Conn.-based Playtex Products Inc., which specializes in consumer products. Forbes, previously VP, finance, has been acting CFO since January, when Michael F. Goss left to become CFO of Digitas Inc.
New Yorkbased Citigroup Inc. is banking on Todd S. Thomson to fill former CFO Heidi Miller’s shoes. Miller left the financial- services concern to become CFO of Priceline.com in April. Thomson, 39, was previously CEO of Citibank’s private bank.
Former Publishers Clearing House CFO Maureen O’Connell has booked a spot in Barnes & Noble Inc.’s corporate office. O’Connell, 38, assumes the CFO position at the New Yorkbased bookseller. The position was filled on an interim basis since Marie Toulantis left to become CFO of Barnesandnoble.com.
Out On The Street
Lisa Mogensen is taking it to the Street! Formerly VP of corporate development at TheStreet.com, Mogensen, 36, has been named acting CFO. She succeeds Paul Kothari, 46, at the online financial-news service headquartered in New York. Kothari assumes the CFO role at Redwood Communications Group Inc.
Fiberlink Communications Corp., in Blue Bell, Pa., had a missing link in its chain of command, so it hitched Britton Murdoch to the acting CFO role, a new position at the provider of enterprise services. Murdoch was formerly acting CFO of Internet Capital Group.
The Pep Boys–Manny, Moe, & Jack–are gearing up for the arrival of George Babich Jr., who was appointed SVP and CFO. Babich, 48, has served as VP, finance, since August 1996. He succeeds Michael J. Holden, now an EVP at the Philadelphia-based auto-parts chain.
To the Land Of Venture
These days, it seems everyone wants to be a venture capitalist, including CFOs. Longtime Dell Computer Corp. CFO Tom Meredith recently stepped aside to help manage Dell’s venture arm, and the CFO and SVP of ADC Telecommunications, Robert Switz, has taken on responsibility for his company’s newly formed, $100 million venture fund, to name just two CFOs who have plunged into the VC world.
Although the returns on some of these corporate venture funds get all the press attention (for example, as of late March, Dell’s investment of $700 million was valued at more than $2 billion), the real benefit to companies is buying a first-hand look at emerging technologies, instead of getting blindsided by a technology that suddenly renders one’s business model moot. “The venture space will provide great opportunities for Dell to have an earlier peek into the future, and thereby help Dell reshape and transform its own landscape and that of the competition,” says Meredith. “Being on the front end of that is very exciting.”
For Switz, getting into the venture game helps a company “become an advantaged player. New businesses are being spawned as we speak. Established companies cannot possibly cover all the technology needs in-house. By taking a stake, it allows you to have an early look at who you think the successful companies will be.” Prior to establishing its new fund, ADC invested on a less-formalized basis, making $40 million in investments now valued at more than $1 billion. Switz will also keep his CFO hat while the venture arm evolves into a separate organization.
Three lawsuits that once haunted iVillage Inc. are now ghosts of the past. Steven Carter, former EVP, sales and marketing, and Joanne O’Rourke Hindman, former SVP of finance and operations, filed suit against the online women’s network in January (see Grapevine, April), alleging the company promised stock options but didn’t deliver. A similar suit was filed in January 1999 by former VP of business development Todd Kenner. On March 15, iVillage settled with all three parties. Although the settlement terms have not been disclosed, iVillage said in a statement that no party admitted any liability, and that the resolution was “amicable.”
Is it also a gentleman’s prerogative to change his mind? Michael E. Stanek thinks so. On March 27, just over two weeks after assuming the CFO position at Mediaplex Inc., a San Franciscobased firm specializing in Internet marketing, Stanek announced he was high- tailing it back to New Yorkbased Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., where he had been a senior analyst. In a statement after his return, Stanek said his decision “in no way reflects my admiration for Mediaplex.”
Such indecision is rare but not unheard of. In 1997, Charles Noski, then CFO and vice chairman of Hughes Electronics Corp., became EVP and CFO of United Technologies Corp., but just six weeks later returned to the president position at Hughes. According to Walter Williams, head of the CFO search practice at TMP Worldwide, hasty retreats happen if a CFO doesn’t do his due diligence, or if a previous employer realizes it has lost a key player and says, “Come back. We’ll make good.” Such was the case with Noski, who returned when his longtime ally Mike Smith moved into the chairman and CEO seats at Hughes.
Is there anything a company can do to keep its executives from jumping ship so soon after coming on board? Cynthia Karr, VP at executive recruiter Howard Karr & Associates, says the most an employer can do is keep the lines of communication open. “Talk it out,” she says. “Make sure they want to start and make sure it’s really going to happen.”