Magazine article Variety

Studio Chief Sets Sights on New Media

Magazine article Variety

Studio Chief Sets Sights on New Media

Article excerpt

TO UNDERSTAND WHAT Michael Lynton brings to the table at Snap, think about what executives like Sheryl Sandberg have meant to Facebook or Eric Schmidt to Google.

When the former Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO takes his place next month as chairman of the board at Snapchat's parent company, alongside CEO Evan Spiegel, the pairing will be a classic Silicon Valley move: an experienced, level-headed operator becomes yang to the yin of the inexperienced but visionary genius at the helm.

"Sheryl went in as COO, and Michael is going in as chairman, but it's essentially the same thing," says Mike Vorhaus, president of media-biz consulting firm Magid Advisors. "The structure of the partnership is different, but for Snapchat, this is the way to do it."

As Snap heads toward an initial public offering sometime in 2017, the point of the promotion may be to calm fears on Wall Street about the absence of experienced leadership at a company ruled by a 26-year-old.

"I admire Spiegel for bringing in adult supervision - that's important," says Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities. "What Lynton can help him with is oversight of management of the company, making sure that they are lawyered-up right, have the HR policies that keep their employees happy, that their facilities function properly, because they are going to be a big company."

While Hollywood was caught by surprise Jan. 13 by Lynton's defection from Sony, his move to Snap really isn't all that surprising. He was an early investor in Snapchat, putting in $200,000 in 2012, when the app was just beginning to draw buzz among teenagers.

Lynton joined Snapchat's board in 2013, cementing a bond with Spiegel that insiders say isn't quite a mentor/protégé dynamic, because Spiegel has been cock-sure and headstrong from the moment he exited the womb. But Lynton is as close to a trusted adviser as Spiegel gets; now that he is out of Sony, he is poised to go into full-time consigliere mode.

But anyone who knows Spiegel can tell you he will be very much firmly in control of Snap. While Lynton may help the company mature from scrappy upstart to multinational corporation, he's not expected to have much of a hand in a strategic direction that is all Spiegel. …

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