Verizon Media Chief To Leave -- WSJ

By Ryan Knutson Features Dow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 5, 2017).

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Verizon Communications Inc. said its top media executive, Marni Walden, is leaving in February and her responsibilities will be split among existing executives at the telecom giant.

Ms. Walden oversees the company's media and digital business, including its Yahoo and AOL properties, a role she took over in 2015. One of her lieutenants, Tim Armstrong, who runs the Internet properties, will now report directly to Chief Executive Lowell McAdam.

Ms. Walden, 50, rose through the ranks of Verizon's wireless business and was the company's highest-ranking female executive. She was considered a potential successor to Mr. McAdam.

Her departure comes after it became clear to Ms. Walden that she was unlikely to become the next CEO, according to one person familiar with the matter.

"Marni helped build our wireless business, starting as a sales representative in a store and grew into an inspirational leader and role model for so many at Verizon," Mr. McAdam said in a statement. She "will leave us in a strong competitive position."

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Ms. Walden was also responsible for Verizon's telematics business, which connects cars and other devices to the internet. Those duties will be handed to John Stratton, who is president of global operations and oversees the company's largest business units.

Mr. Armstrong, the former CEO of AOL, has been leading the integration of Yahoo and AOL, after the $4.5 billion deal closed earlier this year. He laid off about 2,100 of 14,000 people in the combined workforce under a new division called Oath, whose properties include HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo Finance.

Just this week, the company disclosed that a massive data breach at Yahoo before the deal was far more extensive than previously disclosed, affecting all of Yahoo's 3 billion user accounts. Ms. Walden was one of the executives who advocated for the Yahoo purchase, but her departure was unrelated to the hacking disclosures, the person said.

Ms. Walden has led many of the company's media deals in recent years. She oversaw the acquisition of Intel Corp.'s internet video startup, called OnCue, which she helped transform into go90, a mobile video app. Go90 has yet to gain significant traction.

Mr. McAdam, 63, has made no specific retirement plans. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, he said, "I don't plan on working when I'm 65. Life is too short."

Despite Mr. Armstrong's high profile, people inside the company say the two primary contenders to succeed the longtime CEO are Mr. Stratton and Hans Vestberg, a former Ericsson CEO who joined Verizon earlier this year to head up its network operations.

Write to Ryan Knutson at ryan.knutson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 05, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)