David Wells, a 14-year veteran of Netflix who has guided the company through a period of massive growth since 2010 as chief financial officer, announced plans to leave the company.
Netflix said Wells will step down after helping the company choose his successor and announced that its search for a new CFO will include “both internal and external candidates.” Wells said in a statement that after exiting Netflix, he intends to focus more on philanthropy “but I’m not sure yet what that looks like.”
“After discussing my desire to make a change with Reed [Hastings, Netflix’s chairman and CEO], we agreed that with Netflix’s strong financial position and exciting growth plans, this is the right time for us to help identify the next financial leader for the company,” Wells said.
Hastings, in a statement, said, “David has been a valuable partner to Netflix and to me. He skillfully managed our finances during a phase of dramatic growth that has allowed us to create and bring amazing entertainment to our members all over the world while also delivering outstanding returns to our investors.”
As CFO, Wells has engineered a debt-fueled binge on content spending, with Netflix projecting programming costs of upwards of $8 billion in 2018 (on a P&L basis). He also was a key leader in Netflix’s aggressive international expansion of the streaming service to more than 190 countries.
It’s possible that Wells is simply looking for a change and that he’s “burned out,” said Raj Das, global head of digital practice at executive recruiter Buffkin/Baker. Or, Das speculated, “maybe the board said, ‘Let’s bring a fresh face into the mix to take the company to the next level.'” Buffkin/Baker is not currently working with Netflix on any executive-placement assignments, according to Das.
Wells was named Netflix’s chief financial officer in 2010, when then-CFO Barry McCarthy departed. Prior to that, Wells served in a variety of roles, most recently as VP of financial planning and analysis. From July 2015 to July 2017, he lived and worked in the Netherlands as part of building up Netflix’s European operations.
Before joining Netflix in 2004, Wells worked for Deloitte Consulting in multiple roles from August 1998 to March 2004 and in the non-profit world before getting his MBA. Wells holds an MBA and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Virginia.
Wells is on the board of the Trade Desk, a programmatic-advertising platform company, which he joined in January 2016, and serves as audit committee chair and on the compensation committee.