In the footsteps of David Nussbaum (ex-Penton), Jim Cassella (ex-Reed Business), and numerous other former publishing CEOs who recently made the move to private equity, media veteran Michael Marchesano this week signed on as a managing director with media investment banking firm Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc. The announcement came less than two weeks after his resignation as chief transformation officer at the Nielsen Company.
While a memo to Nielsen employees from chairman and CEO David Calhoun said Marchesano initiated his exit from the company, some speculated that he was pushed out, while others said he’d been considering the move for some time.
Here, Marchesano speaks with Folio: associate editor Jason Fell about his recent move, and about the circumstances surrounding his departure from Nielsen.
FOLIO: How do you describe what your role as managing director will be at JEGI? What is your focus?
Marchesano: My focus within the firm will be the business information sector. As managing director, I’ll be in the marketplace looking at opportunities to bring companies to the market, within that sector. I’ll be working with the C-level executives in that area.
FOLIO: What challenges do you expect to face at JEGI? What are you hoping to accomplish?
Marchesano: I want to continue the very successful trend that [JEGI founder and CEO Wilma Jordan] and her team have had in being a leader in the space as far as deal volume. My coming on to lead the business information sector as MD is to continue that trend and continue to serve our customers and exceed their expectations in regards to working with the firm.
I think as we look at the future of b-to-b, I believe it will continue to be an important key to the industries it serves. As we all know, markets are becoming more complicated, and technology is an important catalyst for that. The b-to-b information tools that I believe compliment traditional b-to-b in the sense of the print, face-to-face and internet products that many media companies have done an excellent job in developing for their audiences and customers, is an extension of that. Taking my knowledge of b-to-b and working it from the M&A and investment banking side is a nice compliment to what I’ve done and the relationships I’ve built.
FOLIO: How do you expect to make the transition from publishing executive to media investment banker?
Marchesano: I’ve had the opportunity over the last 20 years to watch Wilma and her team and how they conduct themselves in the marketplace and work the market. I think that while there will be a learning curve to a degree, but since I’ve been involved in the b-to-b arena for close to 30 years, I think I have a level of domain experience and understanding of the marketplace.
FOLIO: Would you say your priorities as a managing director at JEGI will be different than those as a chief officer at Nielsen?
Marchesano: It’s a different type of role, but I think the necessary characteristics like leadership and project management are very similar. I need to understand the marketplace, to understand customer needs, and to deliver and exceed those needs.
A lot of the most successful investment bankers are actually ex-senior executives. It’s about understanding the nuts and bolts of the businesses. I can talk the language, understand the product mix and I know how to drive revenue.
FOLIO: What were the circumstances behind your departure from Nielsen? Some have indicated that you initiated the move. Others say you were pushed out. What was it?
Marchesano: I made the decision to leave around February or March of 2007. About that time, [CEO Dave] Calhoun and I spoke about my role with the company. That’s when Global Business Services was established. It will be an important part of the transformation of the Nielsen Company as it really focuses on the data input, data cleansing and data output particularly for Nielsen Media Research and AC Nielsen. It represents about 50 percent of the employee base and probably an equal expense. It’s the center and focus of the transformation, and really is a 180-degree change from where I am and where I want to spend my career. Dave and I talked, and I could have stayed in that function, but it really wasn’t where I wanted to be long term. That’s when I made my decision to leave.
FOLIO: As you’re leaving Nielsen, what are your impressions of the company?
Marchesano: As you look at the challenges or the opportunities for Nielsen, that is to move away from what was three holding companies to one integrated company, Dave Calhoun has done a phenomenal job in bringing those assets together, looking at product integration on the Nielsen side and creating a stronger operating company. He’s helped eliminate the duplication and maximize expense savings on the operating side.
His goal, which I supported from day one, is that Nielsen needs to be a great operating company and a great customer company in the sense of creating products and services that bring together the Nielsen assets. It’s still a work in progress, certainly. You’re not going to get it all done in 12 months but he has quickly set in motion the plans and procedures to make that happen.