Apollo, the well-known private equity/investment firm bought Yahoo and other media assets of Verizon in a deal valued at $5 billion in a deal that closed on September 1 of this year. Less than two weeks later Apollo and Yahoo have announced that they have named a new CEO for Yahoo (which also includes AOL), Jim Lanzone, mostly recently CEO of Tinder, the popular dating/meeting app.
Yahoo is still a major player in the digital world and drives significant advertising revenues in particular. They report that they have 900 million users worldwide. Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017 and AOL in 2015 for a combined $9 billion.
This will be a big turn-around situation for Lanzone considering the assets were not successful for Verizon. As a stand-alone private company, owned mostly by Apollo, Lanzone may have the time and resources to revitalize Yahoo’s advertising and other revenue opportunities, their content monetization, and their overall relationship with the digital consumer.
Lanzone would certainly be on my short list to head up the new Yahoo. His background is impressive from a joint MBA/JD degree from Emory University in Atlanta to a very small and before its time start-up, called eTours.com, that was bought by Ask Jeeves, the predecessor to Ask.com, which is now part of IAC. Jim ultimately became the CEO of Ask.com after it was acquired by IAC. He later founded Clicker, which was bought by CBS in 2011. Until his departure from CBS in 2019, Jim led the digital operations of CBS Corporation as Chief Digital Officer and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Interactive.
Marc Debevoise who ran digital at CBS for a number of years, while reporting to Lanzone, said “Jim is a tremendous leader, a great builder and motivator of teams, and a veteran and expert of effectively all the businesses Yahoo participates in. It’s going to be really fun to see what he does with this leading set of assets.”
Lanzone is also a member of the board of directors of GoPro and has been an entrepreneur in residence with one Silicon Valley’s most well-regarded venture capital firms, Benchmark. Lanzone will be leaving his position as CEO of Tinder to assume the leadership of Yahoo.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity to lead Yahoo and represent such an iconic portfolio of brands as we enter a transformational new era for the company,” said Lanzone in the official press release from Yahoo.
Lanzone went on to say “I look forward to working with the exceptionally talented Yahoo team, globally, as we create and innovate daily on behalf of our millions of users and advertising partners worldwide. With our unique assets, resources, and lineage, we are one of the few companies positioned to tap into the many new opportunities appearing in the categories where we’re strongest. I cannot wait to hit the ground running with the Yahoo leadership team and Apollo to help grow the business exponentially in the years ahead.”
The current Chairman of Yahoo and Partner at Apollo, Reed Rayman, heralded Lanzone’s arrival at Yahoo. “Jim has a remarkable track record of leading and growing innovative businesses in our industry, and we are thrilled to welcome him on board. With his experience and proven management skills, we are confident Jim is the right leader to steward Yahoo through a transformational new phase that can leverage the best of Yahoo’s platform and performance to reach new heights,” said Rayman.
The previous CEO at Yahoo, Guru Gowrappan said in the Yahoo press release “Now as a standalone company, Yahoo is well positioned to continue to capitalize on key expansion opportunities and I am confident that Jim, Apollo and the entire Yahoo team will work together seamlessly to build on this momentum.”
One of the people that has walked in the shoes that Lanzone is about to put on, Jon Miller, the former CEO of AOL and a digital media investor, said that Lanzone, “was a
great choice” in an exclusive phone interview with this author today. Miller, who has worked with some of the biggest titans in the digital world – Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller – knows what he is talking about.
Drawing a horse racing analogy, Miller said, “Jim’s appointment is a trifecta. He’s got a great combination of long-standing real experience, deep and current knowledge of the digital markets, and the ability to manage a significant organization.