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Updated: Huffington Post Gets New CEO

hippeau.pngEric Hippeau, managing partner of venture capital firm SoftBank Capital, has been named CEO of The Huffington Post. Hippeau, a HuffPo board member, is taking over for Betsy Morgan, who joined the online pub in October 2007 from CBSNews.com. She is leaving the company and vacating her spot on the board, the company said.

Hippeau was formerly the CEO of Ziff-Davis, where he led the company’s online initiatives including growing the ZDnet brand. SoftBank acquired Ziff-Davis in 1995 and Hippeau stayed in his role until 2000 when the company was sold. At SoftBank, he helped secure Series-A financing for the HuffPo in 2006, becoming an early investor.

Under Morgan’s leadership, the Huffington Post has grown rapidly and co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer had nothing but good things to say about her.

Update: Huffington spoke to FishbowlNY and told us that the decision to appoint Hippeau was not a last minute move for the company, but rather something that had been in the works for awhile.

“Betsy has been a great CEO, and we owe our recent successes to her leadership — our six-fold increase in traffic, the doubling of our ad revenue,” Huffington said. “But we want to explore all the possibilities for expansion and for acquisitions, and we need the additional firepower of someone with Eric’s experience.”

Although Hippeau has been working closely with the Huffington Post for several years — thanks to his position on the small, four-person board — Huffington said she never thought he would “want to leave the life of a venture capitalist and join us in a full time role.” And, because he has been working with the company for quite some time, he can “hit the road running,” Huffington said. “He doesn’t have a learning curve.”

Full release after the jump

Earlier: New CEO For HuffPo


THE HUFFINGTON POST NAMES SOFTBANK MANAGING PARTNER ERIC HIPPEAU NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

New York, NY, June 15, 2009 — The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) announced today that Eric Hippeau, managing partner of SoftBank Capital and former CEO of Ziff-Davis, has been named the company’s new chief executive officer. Current CEO Betsy Morgan, who is leaving the company, will be working closely with Eric Hippeau on the transition. The Huffington Post co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer made the announcement. Over the last year, The Huffington Post has been the fastest growing news site as measured by Nielsen Online and in December raised $25 million from Oak Investment Partners.

Mr. Hippeau has worked closely with The Huffington Post since SoftBank Capital led a Series-A company financing in 2006. Prior to SoftBank Capital, Mr. Hippeau was CEO of Ziff-Davis, when it was the largest media company in the technology sector. Mr. Hippeau led the company’s online initiatives, including the development of ZDNet into an online brand. He was also instrumental in SoftBank’s first investment in Yahoo! in 1995. In addition, Mr. Hippeau was responsible for founding ZDTV, a cable channel dedicated to technology and the Internet, and an early success in integrating television and the Web.

Betsy Morgan, who will also be vacating her seat on the Company Board, joined The Huffington Post as CEO from CBS News in October 2007. Over the last 18 months, Ms. Morgan has played a pivotal role in expanding the company’s audience, content and business ventures. Since she assumed the role of CEO, The Huffington Post has seen a six-fold increase in its audience and has doubled its advertising revenue. The company has nearly doubled its staff and expanded its senior team to include a Chief Financial Officer, Managing Editor and a SVP of Business Development. Under her leadership, the site has expanded its content verticals from five to ten and raised $25 million from Oak Investment Partners.

Said Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post, “I’m delighted that Eric is joining the company as CEO. Having worked closely with him for the last three years, I know firsthand what an invaluable asset he has been in our expansion. And now, given his impressive background in the industry and his intimate knowledge of HuffPost, Eric is uniquely able to hit the ground running as the company takes its expansion to the next level. Betsy has been the perfect leader for The Huffington Post during a critical period in the company’s life and helped build our brand tremendously. I have loved working with her.”

Said Kenneth Lerer, chairman of The Huffington Post, “Betsy has done a fantastic job as the CEO of our company. Under her leadership, we have significantly increased our traffic and advertising and have built a lasting brand. We wish her all the best and we will be working with her closely on a smooth transition. Eric promises to bring an unmatched set of experiences in publishing, web businesses, advertising and technology that will allow us to grow our company across the board.”

Said Eric Hippeau, “As an early investor in HuffPost, I recognized the site’s potential to redefine how news and opinion is disseminated in the digital world — thanks to Arianna’s and Kenny’s vision. I am looking forward to being part of the team which will establish The Huffington Post as a major, long-lasting media brand.”

Said Betsy Morgan, “As a shareholder in the company, I look forward to HuffPost’s continued success. The site is now more than blogging and politics; it is a genuine source of the news of the day and it reflects the culture of our times. I have assembled an amazing team that will continue to generate a fantastic product and grow the business. Together we have exceeded many of our goals, moving the company beyond the political cycle of last year to realize broad success every day.”

Mr. Hippeau joined Ziff-Davis in 1989 as Publisher of PC magazine and he became its Chairman and CEO in 1993. In 1995, SoftBank acquired Ziff-Davis, and Mr. Hippeau continued in the role of CEO until 2000, when the company was sold. During his career at Ziff-Davis, Mr. Hippeau recognized early the prospects for the growth of online media. Under his stewardship, ZDNet became one of the earliest examples of a strong online business model evolving from traditional magazine content. He also directed several successful magazines and marketing service launches in the technology and Internet fields.

Mr. Hippeau was President of SoftBank International Ventures, where he established SoftBank’s international private equity funds and expanded them into Europe, Latin America and Asia. He was also SoftBank Capital’s board representative for its direct investments in industry leading companies, such as Yahoo Inc, Geocities and CNET. Mr. Hippeau serves on the Boards of Yahoo, Inc and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.

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