Ross Levinsohn

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Ross B. Levinsohn
RL Photo.jpg
Born
New York City, New York, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Alma materAmerican University
OccupationExecutive

Ross Levinsohn is an American media executive who has worked in media and technology. He held a brief, controversial tenure as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and served as interim CEO of Yahoo for two months in 2012 after serving as Executive Vice President, Americas, and Head of Global Media. Levinsohn previously served as President of Fox Interactive.[1]

Early life[edit]

Levinsohn was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, the son of Joyce (née Salton) and Jay Douglas Levinsohn.[2] He graduated from American University with a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications.[3]

Work[edit]

Early career[edit]

Levinsohn and his college roommate started a promotional company, Ross Productions that staged events for college students and young professionals.[citation needed] He joined HBO in 1989, working in marketing and promotions for Time Warner Sports.[citation needed] In 1994, he helped develop content for CompuServe, Prodigy and America Online.[citation needed] In 1995, GQ Magazine recognized him as one of the "30 under 30" media execs by GQ Magazine.[citation needed]

In early 1996 Levinsohn joined SportsLine USA in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.[4] He produced a syndicated television show starring NFL coaches Marv Levy and Sam Wyche, and host Scott Kaplan, entitled "Football Playbook," and syndicated radio programming on Westwood One[citation needed].

Alta Vista[edit]

Levinsohn was hired by Alta Vista to help launch the portal division in 1999. That year, Compaq sold a majority stake in AltaVista to CMGI, an Internet investment company.[5] CMGI filed for an initial public offering (IPO) for AltaVista, but the IPO was cancelled when the Internet bubble collapsed.[6] Alta Vista's popularity rapidly slipped, losing market share to other search engines, especially Google.[citation needed] After a series of layoffs and several management changes, AltaVista shed the portal division that Levinsohn helped launch, and refocused on search.[7]

News Corporation[edit]

From 2001 to 2005, Levinsohn was Senior Vice President and General Manager at Fox Sports Interactive Media, a division of News Corporation. In late 2004, he was named president of Fox Interactive Media and assumed day-to-day operating responsibility for the main Fox web properties. Levinsohn left in November 2006 and was replaced by his cousin.[8]

Yahoo and aftermath[edit]

In October 2010, Ross Levinsohn was hired as executive vice president of the Americas for Yahoo.[9] Under his purview, Yahoo acquired 5to1, a digital advertising network that Levinsohn helped found, for $28 million from Levinsohn's partner at the firm, James Heckman.

In 2012, Levinsohn led Yahoo for two months as interim CEO. After the board of directors passed him over for the permanent CEO position, hiring Google executive Marissa Mayer, Levinsohn left the company.[10]

Levinsohn became executive chairman of a short-lived company named Scout Media, which went bankrupt.[11] Levinsohn and Heckman, who was his business partner, were named as defendants in a shareholder lawsuit filed in 2017 in federal court, which claimed that the company's "rosy image" was a sham, with unpaid rent and vendor invoices piling up, and finances in "complete disarray."[12]

He joined the board of directors of the media company Tribune Company as the media brand emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

He later became CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, an offshoot of Guggenheim Partners, the investment firm that then was the controlling owner of the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.[13]

Los Angeles Times[edit]

On 21 August 2017, Levinsohn was named the publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times by tronc, replacing Davan Maharaj. In his most public and controversial move, he hired Lewis D'Vorkin, the former editor of Forbes magazine. Known as "journalism's prince of darkness," D'Vorkin pioneered the contributor network model that flooded the Forbes website with content "of suspect quality and journalistic value."[14]

The Los Angeles Times newsroom filed for a union election in December 2017, four months after Levinsohn was hired, and held a union election on 4 January 2018.[15]

Levinsohn was put on unpaid leave in January 2018 after NPR reported his comments in the Alta Vista deposition, including speculating "about whether a woman who worked for him... was a stripper on the side."  Two witnesses said they were shocked to see Levinsohn, while he was the CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, "aggressively kissing and pressing himself against a woman at a glitzy music industry dinner in plain view of his subordinates and his clients."

The Los Angeles Times newsroom's election vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board on 19 January 2018, the day after the NPR story published.[16]

Executives at tronc said an independent investigation[17] into Levinsohn's behavior cleared him of wrongdoing, but did not release the report. Levinsohn was reinstated and named to a new position as CEO of Tribune Interactive on 8 February 2018.[18] Levinsohn later told Business Insider that the NPR story was "full of inaccuracies, half truths and lies," but did not "directly deny" what he said in a deposition in the sexual misconduct lawsuits.[19]

Maven, Inc.[edit]

In June 2019, Levinsohn was named by the Maven, Inc., a Seattle-based digital publishing firm owned by Heckman, to lead Sports Illustrated following a deal to license the brand from Authentic Brands Group.[20] In October 2019, the company removed longtime editor-in-chief Chris Stone from his position and announced that 40 journalists would be laid off and replaced with "as many as 200 contract workers."[21][22] Levinsohn and the Maven are attempting to turn Sports Illustrated from a print publication into a localized content mill that farms out work to several dozen staffers who are required to form limited liability companies to avoid the legal problems posed by similar sites such as SB Nation.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reuters, From (16 July 2005). "News Corp. Forms Internet Division". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "Jay Douglas Levinsohn". Los Angeles Times. 23 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Trustee accused of sexual harassment will not seek re-election to board". The Eagle. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  4. ^ "CBS Corporation and SportsLine USA Extend Strategic Alliance".
  5. ^ "CMGI Acquires 83 Percent of AltaVista for $2.3 Billion - InternetNews". www.internetnews.com. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  6. ^ "AltaVista cancels proposed IPO". CNET. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  7. ^ Glasner, Joanna (13 November 2002). "AltaVista Makeover: A Better View". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  8. ^ Lombardi, Candace. "Fox exec announces his departure on MySpace". CNET. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  9. ^ Shields, Mike (28 October 2010). "Levinsohn Joins Yahoo". AdWeek.
  10. ^ "Interim Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn leaves company". Reuters. 30 July 2012.
  11. ^ Corrigan, Tom. "Scout Media Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy". WSJ. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Hernreich 2005 Trust and Serure Scout LLC v. Heckman, Stieglitz, Sornsin and Levinsohn" (PDF).
  13. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (15 January 2013). "Ross Levinsohn to run new digital biz".
  14. ^ Lenz, Lyz (24 January 2018). "LA journalism's 'Prince of Darkness'". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  15. ^ Eidelson, Josh (4 January 2018). "After 136 Years, L.A. Times Reporters Decide Whether to Unionize". Bloomberg.
  16. ^ Kelly, Keith J. (1 October 2019). "Sports Illustrated shake-up kicks off". New York Post. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Tronc Hires Law Firm". liverampLA.
  18. ^ Kelly, Keith J. (8 February 2018). "LA Times publisher cleared of wrongdoing, given Tronc post". New York Post. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  19. ^ Dua, Tanya. "How a high-flying media executive with a $1 million annual paycheck and big plans to revamp the LA Times found himself out of a job after 5 months". Business Insider. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Ross Levinsohn, now with Maven, to manage Sports Illustrated magazine". Los Angeles Times. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  21. ^ Kelly, Keith J. (1 October 2019). "Sports Illustrated shake-up kicks off". New York Post. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  22. ^ Trachtenberg, Benjamin Mullin and Jeffrey A. "Sports Illustrated's New Operator to Lay Off More Than 40 Employees". WSJ. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  23. ^ Wagner, Laura; McKinney, Kelsey; Roth, David (4 October 2019). "Inside TheMaven's Plan to Turn Sports Illustrated into a Rickety Content Mill". Deadspin. Retrieved 8 October 2019.