Brian Lesser named as CEO of AT&T’s new business unit
AT&T named Brian Lesser to build and lead an advertising and analytics business using the company's unique customer data and growing content assets.
Lesser will be CEO of the business and report to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.
The tech-savvy media executive who in 2015 rose to CEO of North America for WPP’s GroupM unit joins AT&T as it is poised to become an even bigger media player, with its acquisition of Time Warner pending regulatory approval.
Lesser was also the founder and CEO of Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic buying unit. As CEO of Xaxis, Lesser grew the unit to $1bn in revenue in five years.
GroupM is the world's largest media investment management organisation, overseeing more than $100bn in marketer’s advertising budgets.
"Brian is a terrific executive and one of the best there is in harnessing technology and data to create targeted advertising," Stephenson said.
"Once we complete our acquisition of Time Warner Inc., we believe there is an opportunity to build an automated advertising platform that can do for premium video and TV advertising what the search and social media companies have done for digital advertising."
Lesser is a good fit for AT&T with experience in both media and technology. His experience within programmatic buying will be key to his new role.
AT&T has been pushing the addressable and so-called programmatic TV marketplace for years, mainly via its DirecTV assets, which have one of the biggest addressable TV advertising footprints in the industry.
Programmatic buying typically refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves human negotiations and manual insertion orders.
"Advertising is evolving from broad messages delivered through traditional media channels, to customized, individual content coordinated across all connected devices," Lesser said.
"AT&T has amazing assets for creating engaging advertising experiences for consumers. I am excited to work with Randall and the entire AT&T team to build a world-class advertising and insights business."
Verizon to sell Yahoo and AOL for $5 Billion to Apollo
US telecoms giant Verizon is selling its media assets, which includes Yahoo and AOL, to Apollo Global Management, a US private equity firm in a deal worth $5bn (£3.6bn). Verizon will retain a 10% stake in the company, which will be known as Yahoo at the close of the transaction and continue to be led by CEO Guru Gowrappan.
According to Verizon this corporate carveout will allow Verizon Media to aggressively pursue growth areas and stands to benefit its employees, advertisers, publishing partners, and nearly 900 million monthly active users worldwide.
“The past two-quarters of double-digit growth have demonstrated our ability to transform our media ecosystem. With Apollo’s sector expertise and strategic insight, Yahoo will be well-positioned to capitalise on market opportunities, media, and transaction experience and continue to grow our full-stack digital advertising platform. This transition will help to accelerate our growth for the long-term success of the company.” Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media.
Dominating the internet
Yahoo and AOL once dominated the internet but were subsequently overshadowed by firms like Google and Facebook, instead, they both became giant publishers. Yahoo Sports is a popular destination with sports fans, and Yahoo Finance provides a wealth of information for retail traders. AOL acquired a variety of early media brands, including the Huffington Post (now HuffPost), TechCrunch and Engadget, and several digital ad-tech companies to create a giant platform for advertising. Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017 and AOL in 2015 for a combined $9bn, so are selling at a considerable loss.
“The next iteration requires full investment and the right resources. During the strategic review process, Apollo delivered the strongest vision and strategy for the next phase of Verizon Media. I have full confidence that Yahoo will take off in its new home.” Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon.
The sale by Verizon comes after it disposed of blogging platform Tumblr in 2019 and news website HuffPost last year. Under the terms of the agreement, Verizon will receive $4.25 billion in cash and preferred interests of $750 million. The transaction includes the assets of Verizon Media, including its brands and businesses.
The transaction is subject to satisfaction of certain closing conditions and expected to close in the second half of 2021.