SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - NBCi appointed former Federated executive William Lansing to the top post this morning in a none-too-subtle hint about the spinoff's commerce plans. The three-year deal can be seen as a coming home of sorts for the 41-year-old executive, who served as VP of corporate development at General Electric and was one of the few members of GE chief executive Jack Welch's inner circle.
NBCi's former CEO, Chis Kitze, who founded direct-marketing company Xoom.com, has been appointed vice chairman; he also plans to pursue other interests.
Lansing, who started his career as a securities lawyer, made his name at Prodigy, where he served as COO and helped the online service buy itself out from Sears and IBM. In 1998, he joined e-fulfillment and direct marketer Fingerhut, where he helped the business grow to a $2 billion venture and oversaw the company's acquisition by retailing giant Federated Department Stores.
"Will Lansing's background makes him a perfect fit for NBCi," NBC chief Bob Wright said in a statement. "When Chris Kitze came to us and said he wanted to relinquish his operating responsibilities and take a larger role on the board of directors, we immediately thought of Will, who understands how to grow companies and reach new markets." In recent weeks, NBCi and parent company NBC have struck a flurry of deals in an effort to show that its business is much more than the sum of its parts.
These deals include an ambitious effort to fund a new cross-media company with apparel company Ralph Lauren to create print, Web and broadcast properties in the preppy clothier's image. Moreover, NBCi has signed content-sharing deals with about 23 Web properties to serve its high-speed Internet site, and it has purchased a 20 percent stake in DSL provider Telocity. NBCi was formed from the merger of three separate properties - the portal Snap.com, the direct marketer Xoom.com and a collection of NBC properties.
The company also floated a secondary offering of shares in February, raising about $280 million. Still, the market has largely ignored the company's perceived value, sending shares tumbling in recent months from $88.50 - the offering price when it made its debut as a separately traded company in November - to a closing price last Friday of $44 a share. "We view this announcement as a significant positive, due to Mr. Lansing's demonstrated ability to improve shareholder value," wrote Bear Stearns analyst Scott Ehrens in a report issued this morning. NBCi shares jumped $5.63 in trading to reach $50.25 a share.