Shields steps down at AOL

Bebo pioneer to leave People Network

LONDON — Joanna Shields, the high-profile new media topper who spearheaded the success of teen-friendly social networking site, Bebo, is quitting as prexy of AOL’s People Networks.

In a memo to staff, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong wrote: “Joanna Shields has decided to step down from her role as president of People Networks/EVP of AOL and return to London to reunite her family and explore her entrepreneurial interests.

“At her core, Joanna is a start-up executive, having taken numerous companies through the process of rapid growth and acquisition.”

Shields had been at the U.S. online giant for 14 months and will remain on board as an advisor on acquisitions and new ventures.

Prior to joining Bebo she was a Google high-flyer.

At Bebo, Shields was feted for her sales skills and deal-making prowess.

In fact, when AOL bought Bebo for $850 million last year, some commentators suggested the outfit’s motivation was as much to do with getting Shields on the pay roll as it was in buying Bebo per se.

Nicknamed “Hurricane Joanna” Shields pioneered original content for Bebo with teen soaps “lonelygirl15” and “Kate Modern,” backed by lucrative blue chip sponsorship from the likes of Procter & Gamble, MSN, Orange Mobile, Paramount and Disney.

“Kate Modern” went to TV following its online bow.

Of late in the fickle world of teen media, Bebo has lost some of its mojo to more fashionable social networking services like Twitter.

Even so, Shields is certain to be in demand in London, where media combos of all stripes continue to ponder how to make big bucks from the web.