Executive moves to advisory role

Quincy Smith left his gig as an investment banker at Allen & Co. three years ago to join CBS with the mandate of making the Eye a player in digital media.

Now that the Eye has moved into the top 10 of online media, Smith is preparing to exit his post as CEO of CBS Interactive to return to the investment banking arena.

Smith will formally leave his exec role in January but has inked a multiyear-deal to remain an adviser to CBS, focusing on big-picture issues such as how the Eye can make money with online video.

Neil Ashe will continue to oversee CBS Interactive as prexy. Ashe, based in San Francisco, joined CBS last year as part of its $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET. Smith championed the CNET acquisition, among other purchases that have expanded the Eye’s online footprint during the past two years.

Smith’s resignation had been expected. He’d let it be known internally that his focus was to spearhead a few key acquisitions and reorient CBS’ approach to digital media. He also recruited a number of senior execs with deep interactive experience to expand the depth and breadth of CBS’ online offerings.

CBSSports.com has become a strong performer for CBS. The Eye has also made money the past two years with extensive online offering of games in the NCAA basketball tourney. The CNET purchase brought heavily trafficked sites including CNET, GameSpot, TV.com and Chow.com into the Eye fold. In 2007, Smith drove the Eye’s $280 million purchase of online music distrib Last.fm, which has been widely integrated into CBS’ radio and TV networks.

Smith said he felt the timing was right in the banking world to replant his flag as an adviser focusing on new media. He said he was leaning toward hanging out his own shingle as an indie but he didn’t rule out the possibility of joining an established firm.

“There’s a great opportunity for people who come from my perspective to focus on the growth in interactive media,” Smith told Daily Variety. As for his ongoing relationship with CBS, Smith argued that his arms-length role as adviser will allow him to “not only to be a cheerleader on the sidelines but also someone who will be able to hit the field” if need be on potential deals and acquisitions.

CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves called Smith “one of the finest minds working in interactive media today” and praised his “entrepreneurial spirit and his passion for the business.”

Before Allen & Co., Smith spent five years with Netscape, and he also worked as a banker for Morgan Stanley.

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