Hold The O: Nielsen's No-Show CEO Was Absent With Leave, Now She's Back In Tow
But coming just after Nielsen's parent company VNU has been taken private and an ex-GE executive has been brought in to make the place even more shipshape, the buzz surrounding a protracted leave by Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting has sent the media rumor mill into overdrive.
It didn't help matters much that two of Whiting's top lieutenants--Vice President for Strategy of Business Dave Thomas and Senior Vice President-CFO Jim O'Hara--were named acting heads of Nielsen, handling marketing and finance/administration, respectively.
And this week, when Thomas was quoted as the Nielsen representative in the announcement of a "landmark" ratings deal with erstwhile Nielsen foe News Corp., it only fueled the flames that Whiting might already be out the door.
Not so, say Nielsen insiders of Whiting's mysterious, nearly three-month-long disappearance from Nielsen headquarters.
Whiting's absence during the month of July was attributed to a road show that top VNU executives made to various bankers as part of the company's transition to a private company controlled by a group of private equity firms.
As for August and September, Whiting did take a six-week personal leave of absence, but it was in order to adopt two children.
As for Thomas' quote in the News Corp. announcement--something that normally would have been reserved for Whiting--Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said it had more to do with stature than tenure.
"The original press release had Susan and [Fox News Chairman] Roger Ailes both quoted. Ailes dropped his quote and put in [News Corp. Executive Vice President-Corporate Affairs] Gary Ginsberg's, so I took Susan's quote out and put Dave Thomas' in. Dave's the one who negotiated the deal," Loftus told MediaDailyNews on a phone call Thursday from a remote section of Louisiana somewhere 40 miles north of New Orleans, where he said he and a crew of 15 Nielsen employees were helping to build a home as part of Habitat for Humanity's post-hurricane Katrina relief effort.
Loftus confirmed that Whiting has relocated her new children to her home in Connecticut, and has been back on the job full-time since early October.
"Dave [Thomas] is no longer acting head of marketing and Jim O'Hara is no longer acting head of finance and administration," he said.