In what’s described as "a long-standing succession plan," Jason Young, president of Ziff Davis Media’s Consumer/Small Business Group, will take over as CEO of Ziff Davis Media. He replaces Robert Callahan, who will continue as chairman of the company. The move suggests that Ziff Davis Media is being withdrawn from an active sale process. "While the sale process has been a very sharp focus over last 12 months, now that becomes less of a focus," Young told Folio: Alert. "The clearer focus is now on operating the business ourselves."
The move comes almost immediately after the July 31st close of Insight Venture Partners’ acquisition of Ziff Davis’ Enterprise Group for $150 million cash, with another potential $10 million depending on the group’s performance. "We had an ongoing plan where if we sold a part or multiple parts of the business, but there were still remaining parts that did not get sold or we felt were better positioned to be operated directly, we would continue operating them directly," says Young. "This created the right time for me to step into a day-to-day operating position and for Bob to step into a chairman position and help drive the business forward from the board."
Ziff’s Enterprise Group had been characterized as the easier sell among the three Ziff divisions on the block. The $62.3 million Consumer/Small Business Group and the $39.1 million Games Group generate less revenue than the $79.6 million Enterprise Group. Willis Stein needed to make at least $400 million in a sale to recoup its investment. "Obviously, they’ve had a really hard time selling it," says one financial observer. "I wouldn’t be surprised if the outcome isn’t exactly what it appears to be, which is Jason’s now going to run the remaining divisions and they’re going to keep them for a while. Because with the credit market taking a nose dive, I think they realize they really aren’t going to sell them now. They’re probably re-working things with the bank and the equity players may have put some more money in."
Young was part of the executive team that began refocusing Ziff from print to a digitally-driven business six years ago. "We are a private equity-backed, private equity-owned business and by definition we’ll always entertain offers and talk to interested parties, but my mandate is to grow the business ourselves," says Young. "We have to concentrate on leveraging the growth we’ve got coming with the gaming cycle and in the core technology category."