When Verizon announced its $4.83 billion deal to acquire Yahoo on Monday, it also called out one of its longtime executives.
Marni Walden has taken on the job of merging Yahoo with AOL, which Verizon bought for $4.4 billion last year.
As Verizon’s EVP and president of product innovation, Walden is in charge of evolving Verizon from an analogue business into a firm that can battle with the digital media giants and explore new technologies like “the internet of things” and telematics.
By acquiring Yahoo, Verizon has doubled the size of its internet advertising business. In the US, it will now take an estimated 4.5% share of the US digital ad market, behind Facebook (17%) and Google (36%).
Now the job is to work out which parts of Yahoo to keep in order to grow the business even further. Yahoo and AOL both own content and advertising technology businesses and Walden’s task will be selecting the right mix of components to ensure the merged entity works efficiently.
Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO, said in a statement in Verizon’s press release announcing the Yahoo acquisition that the transaction was about “unleashing Yahoo’s full potential, building upon our collective synergies, and strengthening and accelerating that growth.”
With Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announcing she intends to stay at the company once the deal closes, working out how Armstrong and Mayer can work together will be one of Walden’s first tasks. It comes just two years after Armstrong proposed a merger with Yahoo, which Mayer rejected.
So far, Armstrong has been left by Walden to run the business fairly independently, but it remains to be seen what will change now Verizon has Yahoo in its portfolio.
Who is Marni Walden?
Bloomberg published a profile of Walden earlier this month, detailing her lifelong career in the wireless industry.
The 49-year-old executive was named into her current position in February 2015. Prior to that she was Verizon’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. She previously served as the company’s vice president and chief marketing officer. Earlier in her career she worked at companies including AT&T Wireless and McCaw Cellular.
In fact, Walden has spent her entire career in the mobile business in some way. Her first job after college, at the California State University at Chico State, was in 1991, selling briefcase phones for General Cellular inside a home improvement store, Bloomberg reported.
In an interview with Recode late last year, when asked about the speculation that Verizon might buy Yahoo, Walden explained Verizon’s media aspirations:
“What I would tell you is, we didn’t get into the media company business just to be a single-digit market share player. That’s not why we did the deal with AOL. We have much bigger aspirations of how we want to grow that business. Some can happen because of the scale Verizon brings but we will continue to look at how we scale and be a meaningful player from a double-digit market share, and by market share I think about revenue. We definitely will look to build this business.”
As well as helping lead the Yahoo and AOL deals, Walden has overseen the launch of Verizon’s mobile video streaming service Go90, which has reportedly got off to a slow start. Verizon has not yet released numbers on how the service is performing, but it has signed up content partners including the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Vice Media.
Walden’s management style is described by Bloomberg as efficient, but with a “playful” style:
“If someone shows up late to one of her meetings, she fires up a karaoke machine and requires the laggard to sing as punishment. The punctuality rule applies to everyone, including AOL’s Armstrong, who recalls having to sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as penance. Walden remembers it as the soft-rock standard “Feelings.””
Walden is on a shortlist of candidates to replace Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam as chief executive, according to Bloomberg. Her success in handling the integration of of Yahoo could well see Walden become Verizon’s first ever female CEO.
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