It's time to listen to a new tune that will impact the licensing business over the next several months. Let's call it "Changes in Licensing" and it's already being played at seven of the top 10 multi-billion dollar global licensors which drive more than 50 percent of retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide.
|Tony Lisanti, editor-in-chief, License! Global|
Whenever the music is about change, it conjures up numerous lyrics because change is both the opportunity and nemesis of every business. So whether its "Margaritaville" that Jimmy Buffet is partying to "...changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same..." or Bob Dylan crooning "...and the times they are a changin'" or dozens of other songs, the sentiment is oftentimes much the same–it's a time of challenge, uncertainty and opportunity.
Consider the following 10 examples:
- Disney Consumer Products–Former executive vice president of global marketing for Disney's Parks and Resorts division, Leslie Ferraro, took over for Bob Chapek as president of DCP in May. Then a month later, the company announced the realignment of two of its divisions, combining DCP and Interactive Media to form Disney Consumer Products Interactive, (DCPI), which is now run jointly by Ferraro and Jimmy Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive. Disney Publishing Worldwide is also part of the division's new structure to better leverage and share technology. Ferraro made a brief appearance at DCP's summit during Licensing Expo and will likely share more about new strategies at the company's licensee meeting in November.
- Meredith–The media company and owner of Better Homes and Gardens and Allrecipes, was acquired by Media General last month in a deal valued at $2.4 billion. The combined entity, which will be known as Meredith Media General and will be finalized by next June, will create a multi-platform and more diverse media corporation under the helm of Meredith's long-time chief executive officer Steve Lacy, who has been a champion of the company's brand licensing initiatives.
- Iconix Brand Group–CEO Neil Cole recently resigned from the fashion IP management company that he pioneered and founded in 2006. Cole built Iconix into a powerful licensor with 35 brands and $14 billion in retail sales. His philosophy was to focus on marketing the company's brands and establish direct-to-retail deals with major retailers. Several other executives have also left the company in recent months. Board member Peter Cuneo was named interim CEO and is leading the search for a new head executive.
- Warner Bros. Consumer Products–Brad Globe announced in August that he would be leaving his position as president next spring after 11 years. Diane Nelson, president, DC Entertainment, and president and chief content officer, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, will assume responsibilities and eventually appoint a successor.
- Sanrio–After spearheading the 40th anniversary celebration of Hello Kitty last year and its growth and innovative development over the past several years, Janet Hsu left the licensor to join Saban Brands as its chief executive officer. This certainly leaves a void in the management ranks at Sanrio as it looks for a successor.
- Major League Baseball–Earlier this year, long-time vice president of licensing Howard Smith left MLB.
- Mattel–Over the past several months, there have been numerous changes within the executive offices of Mattel as it attempts to restructure its business, improve its performance and explore entertainment options. Gone are CEO Bryan Stockton, senior vice president of licensing Jessie Dunne and most recently, executive vice president Tim Kilpin, to name a few, as new CEO Christopher Sinclair and president and chief operating officer Richard Dickson lead the renewal.
- DreamWorks Animation–There's been a change of guard for this licensor since it recruited Target marketing guru Michael Francis as chief brand officer in spring 2012 to drive growth and new business development. Francis stepped down last month, and Jim Fielding, who was brought in to run DWA's AwesomenessTV from Claire's, now heads-up global consumer products for the entire operation following the exit of Michael Connolly, head of global licensing, as well.
- Sony Pictures Entertainment–After 16 years, Greg Economos left the studio last month to form his own consulting firm. Mark Caplan, who has been with Sony for 12 years, assumed the role of senior vice president, global consumer products.
- Saban Brands–Sanrio's Hsu replaced veteran brand licensing executive Elie Dekel, who led the launch of the brand management company five years ago and spearheaded growth of its current portfolio of 10 brands.
Perhaps the most important takeaway is that every licensing executive must be tuned in to the executive changes because they could very likely impact the strategic direction of your business and your partnerships.