Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

What's next for HuffPo's ousted CEO?

June 16, 2009: 6:11 PM ET

Betsy Morgan is out as CEO of HuffingtonPost.com -- and her firing came as a surprise to her, Morgan told me when we connected by phone late this afternoon.

"Bummer." That was the first word she uttered in our conversation. Morgan says she's not bitter, however. After all, what a ride Arianna's web venture has been these past 20 months. Morgan joined in October 2007 -- and I remember it well because she was at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit as the news of her hiring hit the papers. Just hours after Arianna Huffington, Morgan's boss, introduced her new CEO to the 300 women leaders gathered in California, Morgan was called back east. Her mother had died suddenly.

It was a dramatic start of a dramatic 20-month ride. Back in the fall of 2007, HuffPo, as the site has come to be known, was attracting 1.2 million unique visitors a month. This past April, it drew 5.6 million uniques, according to ComScore. While traffic more than quintupled, revenues doubled. The Huffington Post morphed from a political to a mainstream site. And the company, which has raised some $35 million, is edging toward profitability.

Replacing Morgan as CEO is Softbank Capital's Eric Hippeau, a media-industry venture capitalist who has been on the HuffPo board since 2006. Morgan could have stayed at the company in a lesser role, but she doesn't want to do that. So, what's next? She's asking herself. "My biggest question is," she told me, "Do I help fix an old media business or do I help grow a new one?"

Having joined HuffPo from CBS (CBS), where she ran CBS News' digital arm, Morgan knows both sides of the media business. "God, I've seen so much of that side where you invent differently and innovate differently," she says. "But I also know so many media companies that have gone halfway into digital. Do I go help them with that?"

As she contemplates her future, she'll attract her own traffic -- headhunters, that is. Arianna may help her decide her next act. The parting between these two powerful women is neither pleasant nor easy, but it's amicable. "I loved working with Betsy," Huffington told me today. "We talked every morning at 7:30. It was always a partnership. And she was always a class act."

Before Morgan and I ended our conversation, I asked her what she learned from the reigning diva of digital. "Arianna taught me that everything you do, you should do with passion and a sense of humor," Morgan says. Oh, and one other thing, she said: "The sky's the limit."PATTIE signature

Join the Conversation
Fortune's Most Powerful Women
Fortune's Most Powerful Women For the latest on the most influential women in business, philanthropy, government, and the arts, like us on Facebook.
Guest Posts
Fortune Most Powerful Women Fortune Most Powerful Women The rolodex that redefined power
Profile in The Washington Post
Sheryl Sandberg: Sheryl Sandberg: Don't leave before you leave
COO of Facebook
Wendy Clark Wendy Clark Exec learns firsthand how the homeless live
SVP of the Global Sparkling Brand Center at Coca-Cola
Video
Marissa Mayer's 3 biggest decisions as Yahoo CEO With company stock up over 100% since she began running the company 16 months ago, Mayer reflects on her choices to date. Watch
Chelsea Clinton on running for office: 'I don't know' The vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation talks about her diverse career path and growing up in the spotlight. Watch
About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

Email Pattie Sellers | Welcome to Postcards.
Follow Pattie | email newsletter
MPWomen go Global

The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership brings rising-star women from countries around the world to the U.S. for three-week mentorships with participants of the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit - among them Ursula Burns of Xerox, Laura Lang of Time Inc., Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, and Tory Burch.

Read more

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.