In 2011, after Chris Halpin had rejoined his colleagues back at Providence Equity Partners’ New York offices at the completion of a 3-year stint in Hong Kong, he found himself being confronted by something he had rarely experienced before: boredom.
“I had this kind of existential angst—that I didn’t want to die and have my obituary say that I had worked 40 years at Providence Equity,” recalls Halpin, who notes that it was at this point that he began to think about different operating roles in business and the possibility of landing a CFO position.Read More
Still, Halpin tells us that he reviewed and pretty much rejected the different introductions and job opportunities that quickly surfaced: “I was like, ‘No, I really don’t want to do this’—and then I almost joined another private equity firm, but that would have been just changing politics for politics.”
Then, October 2012, Halpin added to his calendar an entry that seemed to all but eclipse previous possibilities and instantly loomed large on his autumn agenda: “Coffee with Roger Goodell.”
Goodell, the much-revered National Football League commissioner, no doubt usually prefers to honor the prescribed time limits of his appointments, but, as it turned out, his 30-minute coffee talk with Halpin ended up going on for more than hour before Goodell ended it with an offer to introduce Halpin to a number of his lead deputies.
“Roger makes no promises, that’s for sure,” remarks Halpin, who adds that prominent Providence alum and former Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis helped him snag the initial meeting with Goodell.
In June 2013, Halpin accepted a position with the NFL that kicked off an 8-year career chapter inside the league’s business operations. Along the way, he served in a succession of strategy-oriented roles before being named executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer in 2018.
Looking back, Halpin tells us that he originally pitched Goodell for a bigger initial role with the league.
“Roger told me, ‘No, that’s the wrong way to come into the NFL—I’ll bring you in and have you get grounding, and then we’ll move you around to give you different experiences,” reports Halpin, who points out that his decision at the time was not an easy one, in part due to his prospective NFL compensation being a drastic reduction from his Providence pay.
“In April or May of 2013, I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t do this, I was going to regret it—so I decided to make the jump,” comments Halpin, whose 8-year tenure with the NFL ended in January 2022 when he was named CFO of IAC, the media holding company headed by media executive and dealmaker Barry Diller.
Today, having landed in a more traditional finance leadership role, Halpin says that his years with the NFL will always likely trigger conversations that allow him to continue to reflect on past decisions.
It seems that career decisions have seldom been easy for Halpin—even when they’ve involved the opening of a door at the NFL.
Says Halpin: “This was not some sort of courageous jump into the breach without any reservations.” –Jack Sweeney
“When you come in as CFO, ask questions, be direct and be consistent. Learn the priorities, processes and culture, but also put new eyes on the strategy and resource allocation. Constructively challenge the inertia and common wisdom in the organization.” – Chris Halpin, CFO, IAC
Made Possible By
CFOTL: How is IAC structured, and how does the finance function within a holding company operate?
Halpin: Structurally, IAC at the holding company level has about 170 employees. Roughly 70% of these are under the CFO—classic functions like accounting, tax, treasury, and so forth. We also have about 10 M&A companies, each of which has its own CFO or its own VP of Finance, if it’s smaller. We tend to do the accounting work for these, except in the case of Angie, which is a standalone public company, or in the case of a minority investment like MGM. Through our functions, we are service providers to the company CFOs, who are dotted-line to me, in the same way that all of the CEOs are straight-line to Joey Levin, our CEO.Read More
I really put an emphasis of information-sharing. We have a monthly CFO meeting that they’re all on, where I’ll give board and/or audit committee updates, as well as what we’re seeing from a macro or competitive perspective and/or what we’re hearing from investors on investor relations. I also want them to talk about their businesses—what they’re seeing in consumer demand and/or trends; what’s happening with high, medium, and lower incomes; what they’re seeing in terms of service provider behaviors and corporate side trends, like payment and default rates, bad debt, things like that. We also want to talk about digital marketing, both SEO and paid, as well as TV for consumer brands. What’s going on with ad rates? What are you seeing with regard to performance, Google updates, all of these activities?
Then, on a sort of a bilateral basis, if something comes up, I get them together with finance leads who I know have dealt with relevant issues previously. We are sort of the anti-conglomerate conglomerate. We’re not going to force everyone to have the same exact operating system or to centralize all of the AWS contracts under a single one. We always try to optimize, but we grant flexibility at the same time. We do want that knowledge-share, though, just so that everyone has the best information when they’re making decisions about resource allocation or strategy.
IAC | www.iac.com | New York, NY