The person truly steering The Huffington Post’s successful ad revenue ship will leave the company as it begins its integration with AOL. Following the announcement of AOL’s $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post today, the current events, commentary, and lifestyle site confirmed Chief Revenue Officer Greg Coleman will leave the firm.
Though the planned departure may come as little surprise to observers who have followed Coleman’s career path, it could hinder HuffPo’s future success in developing relationships with big spending ad agencies and brand marketers.
After Coleman (pictured above) joined HuffPo in 2009, sales execs at the firm say they saw positive changes right away. According to one former HuffPo ad sales exec who asked to remain anonymous, Coleman’s “golden Rolodex” opened the door to before out-of-reach CMOs and brand decision makers.
“Greg has relationships with top, top agencies and brands,” said the exec.
A year ago Coleman predicted HuffPo would boost ad revenue six-fold in three years. Coleman told ClickZ News in January the company is on pace to achieve that goal, and had “more than doubled” its ad revenue since a year before. “We’re now spiking and the number of clients that are renewing their business is just very high,” he said.
While Coleman appears to have been instrumental in bringing in new advertisers, his absence won’t necessarily prevent HuffPo from maintaining those relationships or building new ones, said the source. “He did what he came to do,” the source added.
The future of the ad sales team at the newly-minted Huffington Post Media Group, to be headed up by HuffPo cofounder Arianna Huffington, may be in flux, though, since the combined companies most likely have redundancy within the sales staffs. The media group includes HuffPo, and other AOL properties such as Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, MapQuest, and its local site network Patch.
In particular, it remains to be seen whether newly-hired sales execs recruited by Coleman will stay at HuffPo. As part of a recent hiring haul, HuffPo brought in three former Yahoo sales execs who had worked with Coleman before he left Yahoo’s advertising division in 2008. Sam Figler, previously VP of global sales and business development at Yahoo, is now SVP business development for HuffPo. Lauri Baker and Jennifer Carroll, both formerly account directors at Yahoo, are now account executive and account director, respectively.
“It’s nice to have the chance to bring over some people you’ve worked with,” Coleman told ClickZ last month.
Coleman joined AOL in 2009 to head up its Platform-A advertising division, following a stint at ad targeting firm NetSeer and a tenure as EVP of global sales at Yahoo. After mere months, Coleman was unseated by Jeff Levick, AOL’s president of global advertising and strategy, who continues to run AOL’s ad division.
AOL’s Platform-A division housed ad tech acquisitions including Tacoda and Third Screen Media. At the time, former Platform-A Chief Curt Viebranz told ClickZ News AOL had dismissed too many employees as it consolidated the ad business units. As AOL struggles to gain relevance among brand advertisers in the hopes of generating premium display ad dollars, all eyes will be on the firm’s ability to hold on to key execs at HuffPo.