by Patricia Sellers
Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley company that's dominating the news is Netflix (NFLX). Founder-CEO Reed Hastings is Fortune's Businessperson of the Year. In the past three weeks since we put him on the cover, the war of words over his power -- and his level of threat to the media giants' steady profit streams -- rises daily. Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, which owns Fortune, quips about Netflix in the New York Times today: "It's a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world? I don't think so."
Time will tell if Netflix's business model -- charging subscribers about $8 for monthly streaming -- will enable it to compete for premium content. (Bewkes and many others say it won't.) But the current reality is that Netflix shares have increased 250% this year, far outperforming stalwarts like Time Warner (TWX) and Walt Disney (DIS). Disney, by the way, last week announced a deal to expand its content offerings on Netflix.
Two weeks ago when I was in Silicon Valley for Fortune's Most Powerful Women dinner (I interviewed Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz), I visited Netflix, hung with Hastings and his crew, and roamed the offices that he, I was told, was embarrassed to move into in early 2006. Back then, Netflix relocated from a renovated hat factory into loft-like offices in a Mediterranean-style office park in Los Gatos, California. Nothing fancy, just perfectly pleasant. But Hastings, who is a no-fuss guy in every way, viewed the new digs as over the top -- and vowed to his troops that the new-HQ curse that afflicts many companies wouldn't poison Netflix.
He showed them. As I toured Netflix, one fact blew me away--and this is a nugget that got cut from my colleague Michael Copeland's terrific Fortune cover story about the risk-taking CEO who is "restless, slightly paranoid...with a Steve Jobs-like perfectionist streak": Hastings doesn't have an office. Everybody else at Netflix has a cubicle, but the CEO doesn't even have that. Not a desk...not a chair.
"Where does Reed put his stuff when he arrives in the morning?" I asked chief marketing officer Leslie Kilgore. She told me that Hastings has no "stuff," except for his Lenovo laptop, which he totes under his left arm, and his Apple (AAPL) iPhone, which he usually carries in his right hand.
Hastings wanders a lot (there's an art to managing that way). And when he has time to himself, the boss plops himself in an available conference room -- here labeled "Cheers" or "Sex and the City" or "King Kong " or some other TV show/movie title. Netflix's chief is agile on his feet. No wonder he keeps turning on a dime.
What theater! Jerry Levin went on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning, a decade after the merger of AOL and Time Warner (TWX), and confessed: "I presided over the worst deal of the century, apparently."
Gray-bearded and skinny, Levin called for lots of public-company CEOs to step up and say, "I'm really very sorry about the pain and suffering and loss that was caused. I take responsibility." About himself and the wealth-obliterating MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 4, 2010 4:57 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
I thought I was dreaming.
After posting yesterday's rant against Time Warner Cable's (TWC) service "upgrade," can you imagine how I reacted at 6:30 this morning when I turned on my TV and found that all my favorite functions--which I'd thought were obliterated by the upgrade--were back in action?
Time Warner Cable (spun off recently from Time Warner (TWX), which owns Time Inc., Fortune's parent) responded to my complaining--I was sure of MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 1, 2009 3:06 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
How do you get top talent to work for a Fortune 500 company that's one-third owned by the federal government, bound by onerous rules on pay and benefits, and so out of favor with investors that its stock won't budge above $3.50?
If you're Citigroup (C) chairman Dick Parsons, who is trying to help embattled CEO Vikram Pandit lure talent to the bank giant's management and board, you pitch MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 15, 2009 3:10 PM ET
"Most of the money we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving 3 to 4 million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector -- because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country."
-- President Barack Obama to business leaders, MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jan 28, 2009 7:14 PM ET
That whopping reduction that Citigroup (C) announced Monday -- 50,000 jobs, representing 20% of its work force -- turns out to be the biggest cut by a corporation in 15 years. So say the job-trackers at Challenger Gray & Christmas. The largest reduction before Citi's: IBM (IBM), which set out to eliminate 60,000 jobs in 1993.
Vikram Pandit's shrinking of Citi -- part of "one of the greatest transformations in history," MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 17, 2008 6:27 PM ET
I've shared pictures and videos and stories of Warren Buffett in action at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit--his idea of "heaven," he told the 350 women who gathered in California in early October. But there was much ado beyond Buffett at our 10th Summit, which drew, despite the market mayhem, a lineup of leaders that reflected our theme, "Extraordinary Talent." Here are a few glimpses of the talent on MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 28, 2008 3:05 PM ET
Interesting to see Bob Rubin giving up his big title, chairman of the executive committee, at Citigroup (C). His new title: senior counselor. Citi contends that Rubin's day-to-day duties, which center on advising the company's board and executives, remain the same and that eliminating the executive committee is just an administrative change to simplify things. The committee's power, which was to act for the board between meetings, now transfers to MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 27, 2008 2:27 PM ET
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