The straight path to success has never much interested Susan Lyne.
Starting as a journalist, she went from creating magazines for Rupert Murdoch to running ABC Entertainment for Walt Disney (DIS) to heading Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO)--then led online fashion retailer Gilt Groupe.
So Lyne's arrival today at AOL (AOL), as CEO of its Brand Group, comes as a surprise…and not.
"This represents a convergence of all that came before--print, video, technology and brand-building," she says, pinpointing the logic of her new gig. "It's as close as I can imagine to having it all."
An AOL director since 2009, Lyne says that before Christmas, AOL chief Tim Armstrong asked her if she would consider stepping off the board and into a key position inside the company. Over a 10-day holiday with friends in Burma, Lyne weighed Armstrong's offer—and considered why she shouldn't accept it. Having moved from Gilt CEO to chairman to vice-chairman, she envisioned her future: "I thought, I'm going to start investing and advising, and it's going to be a wonderful free existence."
Then Lyne thought about why she should take the job. Gilt had just brought in a new CEO--board member Michele Peluso from Citigroup (C)--and was on track to go public in the coming year. While the "wonderful free existence" tempted her, Lyne, at 62, wasn't ready to hang it up. In fact, she decided, the prospect of "putting my head down and working 12 hours a day" sounded fun.
So here she is on her first day at AOL. As chief of the Brand Group, Lyne is overseeing the company's content assets including Tech Crunch, Engadget and Patch, a collection of local-news sites. The one site not in Lyne's charge: the Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington and Lyne, longtime friends, rank as equals and both report to Armstrong.
Perpetually drawn to "where the heat is," Lyne sees in AOL the chance to help Armstrong, who came from Google in 2009, create "the media company of the future," she says. "I really sense an attitude shift around content--from commodity status to critical differentiator." As for Armstrong, she adds, "I adore Tim. After he acquired the Huffington Post and Tech Crunch, all the naysayers thought he would destroy them or lose control of them. Instead, they've flourished and grown in value."
Indeed, Armstrong has AOL growing again for the first time in eight years. And the stock, at $36, has doubled in the past year.
Says Armstrong about Lyne: "My job is to bring in the world's most powerful brand people, and Susan is one of them." And it's no coincidence that she adds to his stable of C-suite women. "The Internet was designed primarily by men, but at least half of the users are women," Armstrong says. "To design products and services with women in leadership positions is one of the best opportunities in the world."
The New York tribute to Nora Ephron brought out everyone from Mayor Mike Bloomberg to Barry Diller (IACI) to Meryl Streep and Martha Stewart (MSO)—800 of Nora's closest friends. She plotted her "Exit," as she titled the finale of her life, down the vital details.
I was invited to Monday's event at Lincoln Center and, sadly, am in California this week. So I asked another woman in Fortune's Most Powerful Women community MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 10, 2012 10:00 AM ET
A year ago, I began my first day at Fortune magazine. A bundle of ambition with no direction, I wondered if I would sink or swim. During my first morning meeting, I was sandwiched between two writers discussing derivatives over coffee. I seriously questioned my own intelligence.
Within two weeks, my sea legs finally took. The Fortune Most Powerful Women brand -- and the editors behind it -- pushed me to MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jul 3, 2012 10:22 AM ET
This week's issue of Fortune includes Best Advice from Kevin Ryan, a master builder of startups who is co-founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe.
Ryan's partner at the helm of Gilt, chairman Susan Lyne, also has wisdom to share--about handling high-bar assignments with finesse. Lyne has worked for an unrivaled lineup of demanding bosses, rarely letting them see her sweat: She developed films for Jane Fonda, launched Premiere magazine for Rupert Murdoch, ran ABC Entertainment for MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 6, 2012 10:16 AM ET
If you're creating a career platform for aspiring Gen-Y women, it's smart to line up star businesswomen as angel investors. Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Gilt Groupe's Susan Lyne, and serial entrepreneur Gina Bianchini invested slivers of the $1.25 million that Levo League has raised to get off the ground, but so what that their stakes are tiny? The two young entrepreneurs behind the new site know how to ask for help MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 20, 2012 8:18 AM ET
Of all the super-achieving women we saw at this past week's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit—CEOs like DuPont's (DD) Ellen Kullman and Hewlett Packard's (HPQ) Meg Whitman, Billie Jean King, and Rosie O'Donnell—Susan Lyne, the chairman of online retailer Gilt Groupe, has crafted one of the most interesting careers of all.
"I always go toward the heat," Lyne said onstage here at the Summit, explaining why she long ago created Premiere magazine MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 7, 2011 11:15 AM ET
The just released Fortune Most Powerful Women list includes more Fortune 500 CEOs than ever. And next week's Most Powerful Women Summit includes plenty of them--Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo (PEP), Ellen Kullman of DuPont (DD), Pat Woertz of ADM (ADM), Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup (CPB)...plus one guy who manages to secure an invitation to the Summit every year. Warren Buffett. Fortune senior editor at large Carol Loomis will interview MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 30, 2011 2:40 PM ET
I was on stage with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the producer and director of Miss Representation, on Friday just after the news broke that Christina Norman was out as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's new TV network, OWN.
What an odd coincidence, since Newsom's documentary explores the dearth of women in "clout positions" in the mainstream media. Newsom says that this number is 3%.
Clearly, it is getting worse.
The day before Norman, a former president MOREPatricia Sellers - May 9, 2011 2:54 PM ET
By Patricia Sellers
Building a startup can be a 24/7 assignment. Building a high-flying startup can be, well, more consuming than that.
Which is why Susan Lyne, the CEO of fast-growing online retailer Gilt Groupe, is switching jobs with Chairman Kevin Ryan.
Gilt announced the new set-up yesterday, and by the time Lyne called me at 6 p.m. to explain, she had finished a full day in her new role. "We were talking MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 28, 2010 2:30 PM ET
Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lyne has joined the board of AOL--soon to be spun off from Time Warner (TWX).
Does Lyne love trouble, or what? Five years ago, after Martha Stewart began her five-month prison stint in West Virginia, Lyne stepped up from the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) board to be CEO of the company--and worked, eventually hand in hand with Martha, to rebuild the crippled company.
That was a slog MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 6, 2009 11:32 AM ET
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