Frode Nordseth moves from CEO to COO

03 Apr 2017

Here is a Schibsted management shuffle in need of some interpretation: According to a news release of Schibsted, Frode Nordseth, CEO of Schibsted Spain, will move into a new job after Easter. Instead of heading his own business, he will go from CEO to COO of a division called Schibsted Product & Technology.

David Manchon will take over as interim GM of Schibsted Spain, while Schibsted searches a new CEO. 

Frode Nordseth, now COO of Product & Technology in London (photo from his LinkedIn page with thanks)

Nordseth headed Schibsted Spain for almost four years, and will leave the Spanish business after overseeing an acquisition-poor period (the Milanuncios acquisition in 2014, the leading general classifieds site in Spain, was the biggest) and the acquisition of real estate site Habitaclia (in January this year) was the latest.

During most of his reign in Spain, the country’s economy was caught in a deep recession. In FY2016, Schibsted Spain wasn’t the star in the Schibsted kingdom, but still it delivered revenue growth of 11.8 percent y-on-y to €111 million ($118 million U.S.), while EBITA rose 4.8 percent to €24 million.

Nordseth cannot boast of topping the Schibsted league of EBITDA margins, and in Spain it even dropped q-on-q from 24 percent to 16 percent in Q4 of FY2016. This league was headed by Schibsted France with an amazing EBITDA margin of 60 percent.

“Frode has been a clear and good leader of Schibsted Spain for several years. I respect his decision to now enter into a new role, and I am grateful for the work he has done as a CEO,” said Sondre Gravir, EVP Established Markets, in the Schibsted news release.

In the same news release Nordseth explained the switch in the following way: “Working with Schibsted Spain over the last four years has been a pleasure. We have come a long way in our transformation and achieved much together. We are now entering a new phase, and I think it is the right time for me to move on, and let a new management and the great people of Schibsted Spain build on the success by working even closer with the organization, users, and customers.

“I am very happy to join the SPT team and to be part of this great effort – one that is transforming all of Schibsted. I hope that my experience can help speed up our journey towards building a true state-of-the-art global tech and product organization.”

Nordseth’s new position may be an even more difficult one. Rian Liebenberg, Schibsted’s chief technology officer, and Terje Seljeseth, Schibsted’s chief product officer, are both welcoming in the news release, as can be expected.

“We believe Frode Nordseth is exceptionally well-suited for this role. He will be responsible for the efficiency of the business, and be a key member of the senior management teams of both the technology and product organizations,” said Liebenberg.

Seljeseth, Schibsted’s chief product officer, added: “I have worked with Frode for many years and now look forward to collaborating with him in this new role. He will be a much-needed addition to our management team. He will form a strong team around him with finance, HR, and communications that will benefit all of Schibsted.”

Using the words “much-needed addition to our management” tells you that this is not pushing a CEO out of his position. Frode is there to “speed up the journey”.

So Nordseth said, what some have been thinking: Things are moving slower than expected; Nordseth is there to speed the process up. That is probably the answer to the question of how to interpret the shift, which may look like a sideways move at first glance.

But, there’s another question: When is one qualified to become CEO of Schibsted Spain?

One criteria is clear: You have to speak Spanish.

“We are looking for a Spanish speaking candidate with a proven leadership track record and strong user and customer orientation from our own or similar industries. We hope to have a new GM in place during the summer. Until then, David Manchon will be interim GM.

“He knows our Spanish organization very well, has strong market insight, and is a respected leader. David is the right person to lead the organization in this interim period, together with the management team,” said Gravir in the news release.

It will be interesting to see if Schibsted Spain under a new CEO sticks to the strategy of letting Milanuncios be “a stand-alone” site, and keeping its very old-fashioned design compared to the modern-looking Vibbo.

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Lars Herlin

Lars Herlin is an AIM Group senior analyst for Europe, and our expert on Schibsted. He had a long career in journalism at Expressen, Svenska Dagbladet and VeckansAffärer, and served as managing editor and later managing director of Gotlands Allehanda.