Kara Swisher

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AOL and Yahoo Settle Differences Over Talent Raid of Top Sales Exec Ned Brody

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According to sources close to the situation, AOL has reached a settlement with Yahoo over Yahoo’s poaching of top sales exec Ned Brody.

The agreement clears the way for Brody — who once headed AOL Networks (which used to be called Advertising.com) and hawked premium display, video and mobile ads for the Web portal — to take over the top advertising role at the Silicon Valley Internet giant, a job which has been open for some time, well before Yahoo targeted Brody.

After he got the offer in the spring, Brody resigned from AOL. But he was prevented from working at Yahoo because of an 18-month noncompete contract with AOL, which CEO Tim Armstrong had declined to let Brody out of. He had also informed Yahoo that it might face a legal challenge for its talent raid.

AOL has since hired a well-regarded ad exec, Bob Lord, to take over Brody’s job. He was most recently global CEO of Razorfish and CEO of Publicis Groupe’s digital technologies division.

But the Brody issue was still outstanding. After negotiations over the past several weeks, sources said Yahoo had given AOL some sweeteners to get Brody out of the contract. In the past, in such inter-company talent conflicts, that has included things like offering some additional ad inventory or better terms for existing agreements. Yahoo and AOL have a number of current ad-related agreements.

Sources inside Yahoo noted that Brody had been quietly present at Yahoo recently, although it would be hard for AOL to prove he had already been working there, which would be a contract violation.

But fights over ad sales execs have happened many times before in the Internet space. Microsoft mulled a legal challenge of Facebook’s hiring of Carolyn Everson, for example, a tense battle that was later settled.

The job Brody had been tapped for was to lead Yahoo’s North America unit. It is a position that has been open since former U.S. head Ross Levinsohn left the company a year ago; he was soon followed out the door by well-regarded sales exec Michael Barrett. Top ad duties at Yahoo have since been shared by Mark Ellis and Peter Foster, who report to COO Henrique De Castro.

Brody has a good reputation, although he is considered more wonky and tech-focused by the advertising community, which still has a wait-see attitude about the key ad sales business at Yahoo. Display revenue has declined rather significantly, but CEO Marissa Mayer has seemed to be focusing more on automated solutions, such as the company’s recent introduction of Stream Ads, which show up on its sites as sponsored content.

It is not clear what Brody’s title will be, although sources said it might be different from what was described in the talent search document I had previously obtained, which was for an SVP of Yahoo’s Americas unit.

The role, as described in that search memo: “S/he will be expected to be the ‘voice’ of the Americas region, serving as bridge between the region and the corporate teams. … Additionally he/she will be a thought leader within the company and a well-respected industry leader as Yahoo!’s primary externally facing advertising and media executive.”

Brody, who has also served as AOL’s chief revenue officer, COO of media and advertising, and EVP of paid services, also started a commerce company called ARPU.com (now SnappCloud), and was CFO of early search company LookSmart.

AOL declined to comment, and Yahoo has not returned a query about the settlement.


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