Tim Armstrong, CEO of Verizon’s media and advertising business, Oath, will step down from his position in October, leaving the company after a 10-year tenure running AOL and AOL-Yahoo amalgam Oath.
In his place, current Oath president and COO Guru Gowrappan will assume the role of CEO and will report to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. Armstrong will stay on at the firm to help with transition until the end of 2018.
“The fact that they are not bringing in new blood means that Oath is going to stay its course,” Rebecca Lieb, analyst and founding Partner of Kaleido Insights, told Business Insider. “It’s a signal Verizon is not seriously interested in major investments and it’s going to be business as usual.”
Gowrappan has served as president and COO since the early part of 2018 after being handpicked by Armstrong. He joined the company from Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, where he spent three years as global managing director, focusing on expanding the international business.
Before that, he worked as COO at Quixey, a mobile tech company, and as COO for growth at Zynga, a social game developer. He also spent time at head of business operations at Yahoo.
“Guru’s background in product and operations, as well as experience working within the C-Suite of Yahoo, a major component of Oath’s assets, makes him a logical successor to continue the vision Tim laid out with the portfolio he is now handing over,” Michael Zacharski, CEO of ad tech marketplace EMX, told Business Insider.
“I think the signal is a clear one given Guru’s background: Time to put our heads down, bring all things together, unlock the value of the sum of the parts that is not only Oath, but Verizon overall, and provide a unified product,” Zacharski said.
In addition to executive changes, Oath employees were told in August that corporate functions — including finance, HR, communications, legal, and IT — would move to Verizon, while product, engineers, and media would stay under Oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.
That news, and other signals from Verizon about the future of Oath, ultimately may have been the catalyst for Armstrong to move on.
“When Verizon showed a lack of interest in buying other media properties to Tim Armstrong, the whole thing fizzled, he got bored,” Lieb said. “It’s very much not surprising that he left along with some other major executives.”
The integration between AOL and Yahoo has never been on solid footing, according to former senior AOL employees.
And as a result of the decision to integrate parts of the company’s business into Verizon, and the expected departure of CEO Tim Armstrong, Oath’s executive leadership team is in flux, according to people close to the matter.
The company’s chief people officer, Bob Toohey, a longtime Armstrong confidant, departed last week, and its CFO, Vanessa Wittman, and chief communications officer, Natalie Ravitz, are planning to leave in the coming weeks, according to people close to the matter.
Verizon, however, sees Gowrappan leading its next stage of Oath strategy.
In a note to employees, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg expressed excitement over the news. Gowrappan “will drive the next phase of Oath’s global growth strategy,” Vestberg wrote on Wednesday. “Guru is a proven leader in building brands, leading teams and driving results.”