Commentary

Google's Margo Georgiadis Takes The Controller At Mattel

Mattel has named Google’s Americas president Margaret “Margo” Georgiadis as its new CEO. Long-time board member and former PepsiCo executive Christopher Sinclair, who has reinvigorated the toymaker as interim CEO since he replaced the ousted Bryan Stockton in 2015, will become executive chairman.

“Georgiadis, who started working at Google in 2009, was one of the company’s top advertising executives,” writesRecode’s Tess Townsend. “She was often the top-ranking ad exec at events like YouTube’s Brandcast, where Google tried to persuade big-brand advertisers to move dollars from TV to YouTube.”

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Georgiadis, 52, has a bachelor’s in economics and an MBA, both from Harvard. She left Google briefly to serve as COO of Groupon just before its IPO in 2011. She has also been EVP of card products and CMO of Discover Financial Services. Before that, she was a partner at McKinsey & Company for 15 years in London and Chicago. 

“Analysts said she could bring a technology native’s perspective to a business that is still largely composed of physical playthings but ever more dependent on the Web to market and sell its products,” writes Shan Li for the Los Angeles Times. “Toy makers are increasingly tied to entertainment — hit movies and TV shows can correspond to huge sales for related playthings. Many companies now try to expand a toy's popularity by launching videos on platforms such as YouTube or Netflix.”

Georgiadis worked with the “country's largest toymaker … on an update to Mattel's View-Master toy, which incorporates Google technology to create a simple virtual reality device that was released in 2015,” reports Will Racke for L.A. Biz.

Richard Dickson, Sinclair’s No. 2 as president and COO, remains with the company. He was thought to be a leading candidate for the CEO position, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported in November that the board had hired executive-search firm Spencer Stuart to identify candidates to succeed Sinclair, who is 66 and lives in Florida. Mattel is based in El Segundo, Calif.

Since Sinclair and Dickson took the reins, Mattel has “overhauled its corporate culture, which now allows designers and marketers to take more risks with a new division called Toy Box, created as an entrepreneurial arm,” report Paul Ziobro and Joann S. Lublin for the Wall Street Journal. “… Georgiadis will oversee a leadership team remade with outsiders from food, media and other industries to oversee brand development, content creation and human resources.”

“Georgiadis comes to Mattel at a time of relative stability. Sales for core brands like Barbie have been improving as innovation under Sinclair has been well received by consumers. Most notably, that brand went under a major overhaul as it added new body types, skin colors and hair styles to deviate from the slender doll that was the standard for decades,” writes John Kell for Fortune.

“Sinclair also aimed to work with tech startups to add technology in a more appropriate manner to toys (after internal efforts led to so-so results) and aimed to make decisions at a faster pace than in the past,” Kell continues.

Georgiadis’ experience and influence extends well beyond her workday at Google.

Crain's Chicago Business named Georgiadis one of the most powerful women in Chicago business in 2014, John Pletz reports for that publication, and she “has been building her executive profile as a board member of McDonald's and clothing retailer Jones Group.”

She also is the board chair of the Ad Council.

“She no longer lives in Chicago, but has a home here and serves on the board of the Economic Club of Chicago. Georgiadis also led the Women@Google program, which focuses on advancing STEM education for girls,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Amina Elahi.

“I'm thrilled for Margo and wish her every success at Mattel,” Philipp Schindler, Google's chief business officer, emailed Elahi. “She's helped create terrific momentum for our business and under her leadership, we've built incredibly close relationships with our partners across the Americas.”

“Inspiring children through play and creativity is crucial to early development and no company has done more in that space over many generations than Mattel. As a parent, I have seen this first hand and am honored to be joining the company at this exciting time of renewed focus,” Georgiadis says in the statement announcing her appointment. 

And she is, no doubt, imagining the possibilities of where to take it next.

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