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Verizon Confirms Oath CEO Tim Armstrong Will Leave at End of 2018

K. Guru Gowrappan, Oath's chief operating officer, will be new CEO of digital media group

It’s official: Tim Armstrong is stepping down as Oath’s CEO next month and will leave Verizon at the end of the year, the telco announced.

Effective Oct. 1, K. Guru Gowrappan, the former Alibaba Group exec who has served as Oath’s president and COO since April of this year, will step into the CEO role at Oath. He will report to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.

Armstrong will help “guide the Verizon subsidiary’s management transition” as a strategic adviser, the company said, reporting to Verizon chairman Lowell McAdam (who stepped down as CEO in August).

Word emerged last week that Armstrong was set to leave Oath, the division formed through the merger of AOL and Yahoo. Armstrong joined AOL in 2009 and was named Oath’s CEO in 2017, following the telco’s acquisition of Yahoo.

Along with Armstrong, two other Oath execs are set to depart, according to sources: CFO Vanessa Wittman, who joined the company in early 2018 after previously serving as chief financial officer at Dropbox, Motorola, and Marsh & McLennan; and chief communications officer Natalie Ravitz, who joined Oath in May from the NFL.

Since joining Verizon, Gowrappan has overseen the day-to-day operating businesses at Oath, including all of the consumer and customer brands, operations, products and technology.

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In announcing the appointment, Vestberg said, “Guru has proven experience in scaling businesses globally. I’m thrilled he will lead Oath in an exciting new phase of growth, building on the foundation Tim and his team have created by delivering brands our customers love.”

Gowrappan previously served as Alibaba’s global managing director, focused on international expansion for consumer and enterprise products across e-commerce, entertainment and media, and payments. Prior to joining Alibaba in November 2015, he was COO at mobile startup Quixey and prior to that was the COO for growth/emerging initiatives at games company Zynga. He also held several leadership roles at Yahoo and Overture.

McAdam — who as CEO led the acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo for a total of about $10 billion — tried to put a positive spin on Armstrong’s exit. In a statement, McAdam said that with Armstrong’s “continued guidance over the next few months, our enthusiasm for Oath’s potential has never been greater.”

But Verizon’s CEO appointment of Vestberg, previously a longtime exec at wireless-tech giant Ericsson, has reinforced that the company is focused on its network infrastructure business — and would not be following the strategy of rival AT&T in trying to become a media-telecom hybrid. Marni Walden, formerly Verizon’s EVP and president of global media, stepped down at the end of 2017 after it became clear she was not being considered for the CEO job. Walden had been the key architect of the company’s acquisition of Yahoo and the formation of Oath.

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