Jeff Weiner gave up his job as the chief executive of LinkedIn, a Microsoft company, earlier this week. He will occupy the office of the executive chairman. I have known Jeff in a professional capacity for a while — he was the guy leading some interesting changes at Yahoo, back when Yahoo was a thing. As someone who came to Silicon Valley after a stint at Warner Brothers (Online) and was part of former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel’s coterie, it would be an understatement to label him an overachiever. His career is a curve that moves up and to the right.
It is run by Jeff Weiner, who in my opinion is a rare breed — a chief executive who thinks and behaves like a founder. He knows the product, he knows the people and he knows exactly what users want. He is astute about his company’s short comings and also knows his strengths.
Given that he is giving up the CEO job at LinkedIn, without another gig at the parent company, tells me he is ready to move on from the big Azure-tinted Windows complex. So where will he be headed next? My bet is that he could be on the very short list of people who could head up Disney once Bob Iger decides to take off his mouse ears.
About a decade ago, when I wrote about the inevitability of the internet, my argument was that all companies will become digital companies, and in the process, will develop management teams that are more equipped to embrace the technological change and benefit from it. It doesn’t matter if they rented cars, sold shaving blades, or served up comic book tales. Today, if Netflix is a technology company that has become a media giant, then Disney is a media giant that is doing its very best to become a technology giant. Whether it is the purchase of the company behind MLB.com or launching Disney+, they are now a legitimate technology player. Add to this Hotstar as an Asian streaming platform, and Walt’s baby has had a proper e-makeover.
And the next leader of the company needs to be able to balance the needs of this digital organization with the creative media side of the business — and to find a way somehow to keep growing those fairground revenues. Those Disney parks, by the way, are some of the most advanced examples of human technology interaction. At LinkedIn, Weiner got a taste of what it takes to be a media organization, albeit one powered by the people who made up the network. He knows how to navigate large organizations with messy structures (Yahoo and Microsoft, for example). But more importantly, he knows how to work with everyone from the engineering teams to those in the executive suite, and run a scalable infrastructure at the same time.
So, I am going out on a limb here and calling it now: Jeff as the next Disney honcho. Of course, time has a habit of either making you look like a genius (rarely) or an idiot (often.)