Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: CBS Digital CEO Smith to Leave to Start a Silicon Valley Advisory Firm (First Customer? CBS)

quincy-smith

Quincy Smith, the high-profile CEO of CBS Interactive, is planning on leaving his job at the media giant in January to start an advisory firm in Silicon Valley, according to several sources.

But, in an interesting twist, Smith (pictured here) will remain an adviser to CBS (CBS) under a multiyear contract, sources added, making it his first client.

UPDATE: CBS confirmed the move BoomTown earlier reported, in a press release below.

Apparently, Smith will focus intently on video monetization, authentication and other digital issues for the company. CBS is calling it a “transition to a new role,” in its official statement.

CBS Interactive President Neil Ashe will take over Smith’s duties, but without the CEO title, which was a relatively new one for Smith.

CBS is television’s most popular network again this season and its interactive properties are among the top ten in aggregate in both traffic and video.

“I’m very pleased to extend our relationship with Quincy, who is one of the finest minds working in Interactive media today,” said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, in a statement. “Quincy helped put CBS Interactive on the map and we are now a Top 10 presence in premium content.”

Said Smith: “It’s a huge honor to count CBS as my first client. In three years, this company has grown its Interactive profile immeasurably, and yet there is so much more to be done. I love CBS and its people and I look forward to working closely with them to help CBS become the premier video content company, regardless of platform or screen.”

MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka wrote in May about the possibility of Smith departing CBS, where he has worked since late 2006.

As Kafka wrote, Smith has long wanted to start a new media consultancy and has also wanted to return to Silicon Valley.

In fact, the man BoomTown has dubbed the “Energizer Bunny of the Web” was an early employee at Netscape Communications in the Web 1.0 heyday, tried his hand at venture capital and worked on tech deals for media banking firm Allen & Co.

At CBS during the Web 2.0 era, Smith has been aggressively guiding the company into a series of transactions, including the $280 million acquisition of Last.fm in 2007 and the $1.8 billion purchase of CNET last year.

Smith has also been involved with digital issues related to CBS’s strong television assets. He has championed–unlike other media giants–widely distributing CBS content online and keeping control of its advertising sales.

People close to Smith say he often talks of trying to emulate Dan Case, the late brother of AOL founder Steve Case and the former CEO of Hambrecht & Quist, one of the more influential among Silicon Valley investment banks during the first Web boom.

Sources said that the time has now come and that the move is expected to be announced very soon.

It is also likely that Smith’s top business development exec at CBS, Mike Marquez, will also leave to join him at the still unnamed firm.

BoomTown suggestion for a name: Q 3.0.

Here’s Smith in a cameo for a video spoof after he paid $5 million for Wallstrip, the funny business video site which has since been severely sidelined:

QUINCY SMITH SIGNS MULTI-YEAR ADVISORY AGREEMENT WITH CBS CORPORATION

CEO of CBS Interactive to Depart in January 2010 but Will Continue Working with Company on Video Content Monetization, Among Other Projects

CBS Corporation announced today that Quincy Smith, Chief Executive Officer of its CBS Interactive division, will transition to a new role with the company beginning January 2010 as he starts an independent advisory business. In this new role, Smith will advise CBS on strategies and opportunities for growth across the Company’s interactive businesses. Smith, who had led CBS Interactive since November 2006, will remain with CBS Corporation as the division’s CEO through the end of 2009. Neil Ashe will continue as President of the division.

Smith will continue to be closely involved in CBS’s initiatives related to next-generation monetization of video, including oversight of the Company’s effort to explore authentication as a new, additive method of distribution. He will also advise on partnering with technology companies to expand CBS’s interactive presence, as well as explore new growth opportunities related to content, services and applications.

“I’m very pleased to extend our relationship with Quincy, who is one of the finest minds working in Interactive media today,” said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation. “Quincy helped put CBS Interactive on the map and we are now a Top 10 presence in premium content. His entrepreneurial spirit and his passion for the business have helped this Company attract some of the most creative minds working in digital media. I know he will continue to be successful in all he’s yet to do, and we’re very happy to have Quincy working with us in this new role at CBS.”

“It’s a huge honor to count CBS as my first client,” said Smith. “In three years, this company has grown its Interactive profile immeasurably, and yet there is so much more to be done. I love CBS and its people and I look forward to working closely with them to help CBS become the premier video content company, regardless of platform or screen. I especially want to thank Leslie for his leadership and counsel, and for giving me this opportunity to continue working with CBS.”

Smith came to CBS Interactive in 2006, and in three years helped build a division that has become a top ten property in terms of worldwide visitors and video views. CBS’s acquisition of CNET in 2008 added industry-leading Web sites like CNET.com, GameSpot, TV.com, chow.com and BNET.com to a portfolio that had already included top ranking properties like cbs.com, cbssports.com and last.fm. Today, CBS Interactive sites span nearly every category of premium content on the Web, across news, sports and entertainment.

Previously, Smith was an executive with Allen & Company, where he was involved with multiple transactions and advised companies such as Comcast, Google and CBS. Prior to Allen & Company, Smith was a Founding Partner of The Barksdale Group, a venture capital firm. Previously, Smith spent five years at Netscape where he ran Investor Relations and Corporate Development and played a role in over 20 joint ventures, investments and acquisitions including Netscape’s ultimate sale to AOL. Prior to that, Smith was an investment banker for Morgan Stanley.


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— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus