Monday, September 13, 2010

Post-Saridakis, pointed questions about PointRoll

PointRoll's fans often say the advertising services subsidiary contributes an outsized share of Gannett's overall profits. So, what happens to the bottom line if CEO Jason Tafler were to join other senior managers in leaving the company in the months ahead?

That's the worrisome speculation among some PointRoll and Gannett Digital employees, a well-placed reader says. It follows former Gannett Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis' departure in late April, to join GSI Commerce as CEO of the e-commerce firm's marketing services division.

This speculation focuses on whether Tafler and the other execs are in line to get multimillion-dollar earn-out payments by year's end. Such installment payments presumably would be due under terms of the original 2005 deal governing Gannett's purchase of PointRoll. Once paid, the thinking goes, Tafler & Co. would have fewer incentives to stick around.

Saridakis himself collected a $4.6 million payment in 2008 when he sold his approximately 8% ownership stake in the company to GCI. Overall, paidContent has reported, Gannett paid about $100 million for the company; Gannett kept those details confidential when it announced the deal, however. Assuming paidContent is on target, that amount would be the single-largest investment I can recall since Gannett went on a newspaper buying spree in 1999-2000.

Speculation about PointRoll's management is apparently fueled by other issues as well. Gannett's overall digital strategy -- including PointRoll -- has been ill-defined since Saridakis disclosed plans to leave more than five months ago; Gannett has yet to announce his replacement.

Plus, Saridakis -- CEO of PointRoll when he was named chief digital officer in early 2008 -- remained close to the company and its executives during his two years as CDO. That's naturally led to handwringing that Tafler and others might follow Saridakis to GSI Commerce. (Indeed, PointRoll, in Conshohocken Pa., is just around the bend from GSI, in King of Prussia.)

Alternatively, the PointRoll executives could launch a start-up of their own, as did another Gannett digital executive, Kevin LeFew, earlier this year in forming online services start-up Digital Fulcrum.

Lately, Gannett is a company that appears to be struggling to execute on a big newspaper website development project, and the expansion of its high school sports network. Is that a company where talented, ambitious technology executives would feel at home?

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. "PointRoll's fans often say the advertising services subsidiary contributes an outsized share of Gannett's overall profits." I've heard that too, but could someone provide the cold hard numbers that prove it? I casually glanced at the numbers, and don't see the proof. But then numbers were not my strong suit. Again, proof please.

  2. No question Tafler has checked out of Pointroll. We do not see him anymore and we think he will join Saridakis (He and Chris are very close). I am sure everyone has sent their resumes to GSI Commerce by now. Apparently Saridakis is being very selective from what we hear. He did hire Deann Harvey our former SVP of sales. We all love Deann.

    Jason would be wise to leave Pointroll as he is too smart for the people at Gannett and Pointroll to stick around any longer. Once his payday comes, he is outta of here!

    I am not sure who would take over. Maybe Vikram Sharmi or Rob Gatto would?

  3. Pointroll is the best company and Gannett is lucky to have us. We are all comfortable with Jason leaving if he does, but we are worried about who would take over from here. Don't get me wrong, we would miss Jason as he is a nice guy, but he is really not our leader. Sandy is the man here.

    There are a lot of people here who are going to make a lot of money when Gannett pays them at the end of this year. All the sales managers and Sandy and Rob and Catherine and Max will all make millions and Jason will make a lot too.

    With Saradakis gone and no sign of his replacement, we are worried about the new leadership when Jason does leave. (which we all know he will leave PointRoll as he has said it many times to us).

  4. Great post Jim. All the execs here at Gannett are freaking out right now trying to do damage control on this one. First, no one knows that the Pointroll people are being paid off in the tens of millions to keep them through the end of the year. Everyone is worried that Point roll has been pulling through for Gannett and if Jason and the team leaves, we might see a big impact.

    Jason was down here the other week and you can tell he doesn't want to be here anymore.

  5. Gannett will be fine. Jason Tafler has not done much for Gannett and he should be happy that Gannett has left him and the team alone to do what they had to do.

    Gannett is a strong company without PointRoll. We are glad they are part of our family, but there is more to Gannett than PointRoll.

  6. Where did this 2005 agreement come from, and did we know about this before? I thought Gannett bought the company wholesale from Saridakis when he came on board. Now it turns out there are side agreements made to pay other PointRoll execs? It has been five years since PointRoll was purchased. So when do all these agreements execute? I don't know all the fine points of modern business but I have never heard of any arrangement like this one.

  7. I still can't figure out why Saridakis continues to work. My friend who knows him very well said that he is worth over $300 million, has a great family and generally well liked. I am sure Tafler will want to be part of that success! Everyone knows that both Tafler and Saridakis are close and that Saridakis brought Tafler into PointRoll when he met Jason during the sale of PointRoll. I do not think Gannett really cares, but they also do not realize Saridakis's deep network in the industry. Jason has done a good job at PointRoll and, like Saridakis, he will be missed. I would not doubt that many people exit PointRoll after this year is over.

    As a side note, there really is no real successor at PointRoll. All the managers seem very weak and it appears that Gannett has been a distracted parent.

  8. So, we do not have a replacement for the Chief Digital Officer six months later and now the best performing company within Gannett's portfolio, PointRoll, will be leaderless too.

    This is on top of the VP of Technology, Kevin Lefew, who has left the company along with a group of smart folks.

    Seems to me that Gannett Digital is definitely falling apart. Martore and Dubow are screwed.

  9. 6:31 p.m.: Yes, we knew about the 2005 agreement in general. Also, these sort of earn-out deals are common.

  10. I declare PRINT IS OUR FUTURE!

  11. I know the former CTO of Pointroll (Keith Gelles who Saridakis just invested in his new company Medialets) and he told me that Gannett iniitally paid over $100mm for Pointroll in 2005 but both Saridakis and Gelles still owned some of the company and Gannett purchased the rest of PointRoll over 3 years where every year they would pay a shit load to both Saridakis and Gelles. The only thing recorded as a payout was the last payment to Sarodakis, but apparently that was for his last share. Someone said that they paid well over $200mm for it with Saridakis getting the majority.

    Another fellow Pointroll employee also said that these "earn outs" for Jason Tafler and his lame management team were set up by Saridakis so that Gannett would retain the management team when Saridakis left. Gannett already owns 100% of Pointroll, these are just seriously big bonus checks based on 2010's performance. Goes to show you how important Pointroll is to Gannett when they are willing to pay over $15mm in bonuses to a few people for just one years worth of work.

  12. "Pointroll is the best company and Gannett is lucky to have us."

    Give me a fucking break. You can be replaced.

  13. GSI Commerce Appoints Deann Harvey Chief Sales Officer for Global Marketing Services Division

    Harvey to lead global sales to extend reach and drive revenue for clients

    KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--GSI Commerce Inc. (Nasdaq: GSIC - News), a leading provider of e-commerce and interactive marketing solutions, today announced Deann Harvey has joined the company as chief sales officer for its Global Marketing Services division. In this newly developed role, Harvey will be responsible for leading the division’s global sales strategy to expand its reach and drive more revenue for clients.

    “Deann’s proven success developing and implementing global sales and marketing strategies is instrumental as we continue to extend our reach into new and existing verticals,” said Chris Saridakis, chief executive officer of GSI’s Global Marketing Services division. “With the addition of Deann, we will be able to build a team focused on providing clients with quality, integrated interactive marketing solutions on a global scale. I am confident that Deann’s ability to foster strong relationships with clients will take the division to the next level.”

    Harvey joins GSI from PointRoll, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions and technology, where she served as senior vice president of global sales and oversaw the global sales and marketing strategy for the company. At PointRoll, Deann was instrumental in implementing the sales strategy that expanded its rich media adoption into the consumer goods, retail and automotive industries. Prior to PointRoll, she was Midwest director for Maxim, where she was the first cross-platform salesperson to drive revenue growth across print, online and marketing properties.

    “It is great to be part of a company that is focused on providing cutting-edge, quality-driven solutions that are designed to drive more business for its clients,” said Harvey. “GSI works with leading brands and retailers that span across the globe, and I am excited to be part of a team that will help to expand the current client portfolio.”

    The division’s appointment of Harvey follows recent appointments of Bill Mills, vice president of corporate development, and Scott Proctor, chief technology officer and head of quality. Since announcing marketing services as a key initiative in 2007, the division has emerged as an important contributor, fueled by strong organic growth and the acquisitions of e-Dialog, Silverlign, Pepperjam, MBS, M3 Mobile Marketing and, most recently, retargeting technology provider FetchBack Inc. The Global Marketing Services division contributed annual revenue of $127.6 million in 2009, up from $26.9 million in 2007, and has approximately 1,000 employees.

    Harvey will report directly to Saridakis.

    About GSI Commerce

    GSI Commerce® is a leading provider of services that enable e-commerce, multichannel retailing and interactive marketing for large, business-to-consumer (b2c) enterprises in the U.S. and internationally. We deliver customized solutions through an e-commerce platform, which is comprised of technology, fulfillment and customer care and is available on a modular basis or as part of an integrated, end-to-end solution. We offer a full suite of interactive marketing services through two divisions, TrueAction™ and e-Dialog. Additionally, we provide brands and retailers a platform for online private sales through

  14. 1. Gracia Martore is not pleased with this post as she is in the middle of trying to retain Mr. Tafler and figure out a way to keep him at Pointroll. It seems like Mr. Tafler has already expressed his displeasure with Gannett and will most likely leave.

    2. Gannett executive management team are bracing for more defections from Gannett Digital. Lack of leadership across all areas of Digital is making it hard for people to do their jobs. Martore's only solution is to have Bob Oliver, from compensation, do very selection retention bonuses for some Gannett Digital employees.

  15. Veiled cheapshot?

    “It is great to be part of a company that is focused on providing cutting-edge, quality-driven solutions that are designed to drive more business for its clients,” said Harvey. “GSI works with leading brands and retailers that span across the globe, and I am excited to be part of a team that will help to expand the current client portfolio.”

  16. "Very selection retention bonuses for some Gannett Digital employees." I assume that was supposed to read "selective," and I hope they are extraordinarily so. Judging by product development, growth in the client portfolio, and profit, it appears that there isn't a whole lot over there worth retaining.

  17. Just curious......with all the interesting digital media companies out there and all there unique and innovative products, why on earth would you work at Gannett Digital?

  18. Folks, get real.

    Jason is, and always has been, riding Chris' coattails.

    As for the earn out, these new payouts have NOTHING to do with the sale of the business. Now, they may be current retention bonuses, but definitely not earn outs. Catherine and Jason were not even employees on deal date.

    Regarding Tafler running to GSI, it is not likely. Deann (who is a rock star) and Tafler had a falling out. Fiscal 2008 wasn't what they hoped and Tafler blamed her.

    Finally, the deal shook out for over $100m, but no where near the $200m some dopey poster previously indicated.

  19. Who's the dumb mfer that called Tafler a nice guy? Have you ever spoke to him for more than 2 minutes? He's a stuffed shirt. No personality. No balls. Perfect example of both the Peter Principle and right-place-right-time. In the time that I've worked with him, the dumbass never had an original idea.

  20. The comment above tells you everything you need to know about the culture at Pointroll.


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