Pillar to top new CBS Internet Group

Exec to oversee network's Web initiatives

Russ Pillar, former chief executive of Richard Branson’s Virgin Entertainment Group and Internet service provider Prodigy, has been tapped prexy and CEO of CBS Internet Group, a newly created division at the Eye net.

Based in New York, Pillar will oversee all of the network’s Internet initiatives. He will be responsible for expanding CBS’ online presence while managing and growing its existing portfolio of equity stakes in independent Internet companies.

The Eye net’s online holdings already include stakes in more than a dozen public and privately held companies, including recently launched portal IWon.com, CBS MarketWatch, CBS SportsLine, online pharmacy Rx.com, Jobs.com, automotive parts seller Wrenchhead.com and a co-branded health site with Medscape Inc., of which it owns 35%.

“The Internet will play an integral role in the future success of CBS,” said Mel Karmazin, prexy and CEO, CBS Corp. “That’s why we have searched for a world-class CEO to manage our inhouse online effort and our growing collection of Internet assets. Russ has successfully run key Internet investments for media leaders like Paul Allen and Richard Branson, and he is well equipped for this new and important role. We’re all expecting great things.”

Pillar will work closely with Fred Reynolds, CBS exec veep and chief financial officer, to manage future Internet investments.

Prior to joining CBS, Pillar was prexy and CEO of Virgin Entertainment Group, where he expanded the Virgin brand into a variety of entertainment and e-commerce venues in North America, managing 1,600 employees across the U.S. and Canada.

He also drove global strategic planning and brand management as a member of the company’s international management board and created Virgin Ventures, through which Virgin has obtained equity stakes in more than a half-dozen Internet companies.

Before that, Pillar served as prexy, CEO and vice chairman of the board of directors at service provider Prodigy Internet. He joined the company’s board as part of the investor group that purchased it from IBM and Sears in 1996.

“I’m awed by the scope of this opportunity and am excited about becoming part of the CBS team,” Pillar said in a statement. “CBS is on the leading edge of Internet development, and I can think of no better place to be in the coming years.”

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