Zeiler Named Interim Head in AT&T Ad Sales Shakeup

Top execs Riess, Sgrizzi join exodus from company
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In a shakeup of what was once Turner’s ad sales division, former Turner International head Gerhard Zeiler has been named interim president of the ad sales operation at AT&T's WarnerMedia unit.

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In addition to WarnerMedia ad sales president Donna Speciale, whose departure was reported earlier Wednesday, leaving the company are Frank Sgrizzi, executive VP of portfolio sales and client relationships for WarnerMedia Ad Sales, and Dan Riess, executive VP of the Ignite content and data solutions unit, both 20-year Turner veterans.

Related: Speciale Joining Turner Execs Leaving AT&T

A number of other positions in the ad sales operation were also eliminated as part of the restructuring.

Gerhard Zeiler

Gerhard Zeiler

The moves come as part of a continuing reorganization of what used to be Time Warner, whose senior executives have largely been purged since it was acquired by AT&T.

Zeiler was named chief revenue officer and given oversight over Turner’s ad sales and affiliate sales operations after Turner President David Levy left earlier this year. Turner CEO John Martin had left earlier.

In a memo to staff Wednesday evening, Zeiler said "it was obvious that everyone understands how much the industry is transforming and that we need to change to enable us to stay at the top and lead the industry. After a thoughtful review, I concluded that we also need to change the leadership structure to support the transition of our ad sales business.”

Dan Riess

Dan Riess

Key former Turner executives who will be part of Zeiler’s operating team are:

  • Amit Chaturvedi leads Revenue Operations, Ad Innovation, Ad Product strategy, Digital Sales Planning and Digital Yield Management
  • Katrina Cukaj oversees linear Strategic Planning, Research, Network Partnerships and Marketplace Image & Experience
  • Joe Hogan leads sales including Agency, Client, Digital, Direct Response and Content Partnerships

But more changes are likely as AT&T looks to more closely align its Xandr advertising and analytics unit with the former Turner cable networks.

Frank Sgrizzi

Frank Sgrizzi

Related: Xandr Launches Advanced Ad Buying Platform

As executive VP of Ignite, Riess launched content studios at Turner, was a close collaborator with Xandr and was part of the original executive team that launched OpenAP, the advanced advertising consortium formed by Turner, Fox and Viacom. AT&T pulled out of OpenAP earlier this year.

Sgrizzi managed WarnerMedia’s sales relationships with ad agencies across the companies portfolio and was one of B&C’s Next Wave of Leaders in 2013.

Here is the memo from Zeiler:

Colleagues,

The last few months have provided a real opportunity for me to dive deeply into our businesses.

In all of the conversations I had, formal or informal, it was obvious that everyone understands how much the industry is transforming and that we need to change to enable us to stay at the top and lead the industry.

After a thoughtful review, I concluded that we also need to change the leadership structure to support the transition of our ad sales business. For the time being, I will lead ad sales as interim president, working with a three-person operational team with significant experience across portions of ad sales:

  • Amit Chaturvedi leads Revenue Operations, Ad Innovation, Ad Product strategy, Digital Sales Planning and Digital Yield Management
  • Katrina Cukaj leads linear Strategic Planning, Research, Network Partnerships and Marketplace Image & Experience
  • Joe Hogan leads Sales including Agency, Client, Digital, Direct Response and Content Partnerships

Donna Speciale, Dan Riess and Frank Sgrizzi will be leaving the company.

First and foremost, I want to thank Donna for her leadership and dedication. Over the course of the recent seven plus years, she has invested in building out our award-winning advanced ad and storytelling capabilities for our advertising partners, transforming the way we do business today.

Also, I want to thank Dan and Frank for their commitment and important contributions in making Turner an industry leader during their long tenures at the company, 21 and 28 years respectively.

This is a significant reorganization and I understand that it is difficult to see our colleagues moving on. I thank all of them wholeheartedly for their contributions and wish them all the best for the future.

Let me take the opportunity to thank all of you once more for your patience, dedication, and focus on our everyday business during times of uncertainty.

I know that change can be challenging. But remember: Change is also an opportunity, and our ambition is big. We are strengthening our core business, driving new revenue streams, and reshaping the corporate structure – all at the same time.

None of this would be possible without your support, passion and hard work. Thank you for that!

Best regards,

Gerhard

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