GE Exec With No Media Experience Tapped To Run VNU

In a move symbolic of its shift from its Netherlands-based roots, VNU finally named a new CEO Wednesday morning, tapping an executive from one of the most American corporations: David Calhoun, vice chairman of General Electric Co.

Calhoun, who doesn't appear to have any direct experience managing the types of media and marketing research and publishing enterprises that comprise VNU's operations, has been named CEO and chairman of VNU's executive board. In addition to serving as vice chairman of GE, Calhoun has been president-CEO of its GE Infrastructure unit, which is responsible for GE's Aviation, Energy, Oil and Gas, Transportation and Water units. Earlier in his GE career, he oversaw transportation, insurance, lighting and plastics operations, and has an extensive financial background.

And even though GE is the parent of one of the world's largest media conglomerates, NBC Universal, which itself is a big client of VNU's Nielsen Media Research unit, Calhoun does not appear to have any experience working in either media or marketing research.

His hire resolves an important transition for VNU, which was acquired by a consortium of private equity firms earlier this year, and was recently taken private, becoming delisted from various financial exchanges. The takeover was precipitated by an ill-fated attempt by former VNU Chairman-CEO Rob van den Bergh to mount a takeover of IMS. That deal was rebuffed by key shareholders, and van den Bergh was essentially ousted in its aftermath, which also set VNU up for a private takeover.

Rob Ruijter, who has served as interim CEO since June 13, will continue as VNU's Chief Financial Officer.

In addition to Nielsen, VNU operates ACNielsen and various trade publications. It has been implementing a long-term cost-cutting program to help offset the high debt service it assumed as part of its buyout. The moves coincide with Nielsen's most ambitious capital spending and expansion plan ever.