DILLER NAMES JAMES HELD PRESIDENT, CEO OF HSN
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Barry Diller, who was named chairman of Home Shopping Network Monday, wasted no time in starting to build a new management team at the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based electronic retailer.
On Thursday, Diller named James G. Held president and chief executive officer of HSN.
As president, Held will succeed David Dyer, who was named president and chief operating officer in August. Dyer will retain the title of chief operating officer, according to an HSN spokeswoman. The chief executive slot has been vacant since Gerald Hogan left the company in August.
Diller was chairman of rival shopping network QVC until last fall. He joined the board of HSN in August, around the time his company, Arrow Holdings, acquired 20 percent of Silver King Communications, a group of 12 independent broadcast TV stations that carry HSN.
As reported, Silver King on Monday entered into an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in HSN through a stock swap.
Held, who has been president of Adrienne Vittadini Inc. since January 1995, worked with Diller at QVC, where he was executive vice president, from September 1993 to January 1995. He was responsible for merchandising, sales and product planning.
In an interview Thursday, Held said he officially begins at HSN at the end of the year. For the next month, however, he will work with both Vittadini and HSN.
“The one thing that is mandatory in this category of electronic retailing is on-line QVC experience,” Diller said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles Thursday. Referring to Held, he said, “He’s got it. He’s got it plus.”
While Diller’s goal has long been to form a fifth broadcast network, he said he still believes in the future of electronic retailing and is quickly moving to improve HSN’s performance.
A redesign of HSN was completed in August after a year-long effort to update sets, reformat programming and improve the merchandise. Since its facelift, the network has attracted new resources such as London Fog, Nancy Heller, Carole Little, Etienne Agnier, Fred Hayman, Stone Mountain and Trifari.
But the improvements have been slow to affect the bottom line.
“HSN’s business has stabilized during the last 90 days from the poor results of the first three quarters,” Diller said. “The job of Mr. Held and new management of the company is going to be to take that stabilized HSN and obviously aggressively build off it for the next year.
“As far as the long-term growth of HSN, that is going to come from getting more people to access home shopping, either on [television] or through Internet Shopping Network [an on-line service], which is a huge success, or any other means of electronic distribution.”
Asked how upscale HSN can go in merchandise, Diller said, “I’ve got to leave that for Mr. Held.”
“We’re going to satisfy the needs of our core customer and a new customer,” Held said. “That means we will have all types of products, some of which you could describe as upscale. HSN is going to be a retailer that will provide quality products, have a broad mix of product categories and an appropriate value component.
“The real opportunity is selling to more of the 65 million homes we’re in, creating more customers out of the potential viewing audience and continuing to provide quality and value in brand-identified products,” Held said. “There’s a major opportunity to become the headquarters in certain categories such as housewares, linens and basic categories of apparel and accessories.”
Asked whether celebrity hucksters such as Ivana Trump, Vanna White and Connie Stevens would remain important resources to the network, Held said, “We have very successful and prosperous celebrity businesses. I don’t see any reason that would change.”
Held said he plans to step up advertising to consumers, including direct marketing.
Other areas he plans to exploit include the Internet Shopping Network, which he called “a neophyte business,” adding, “We have hopes that it will grow into something meaningful.
“Infomercials are another opportunity,” Held said. “There’s also a major opportunity for HSN worldwide. First and foremost, we want a healthy business here, but there is a major opportunity abroad.”