Is Gwyneth Paltrow setting herself up to become the next Martha Stewart?
That seems to be the case, given the person she’s picked to run Goop, her growing lifestyle startup. The well-known actress, upping her relevance in the entrepreneurial arena, revealed this morning that she has hired Lisa Gersh, the former CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), to be the new CEO of Goop.
Gersh, a savvy media-industry executive with well over a decade of startup experience, left Stewart’s company early last year, after just six months at the helm, over disagreements with the veteran lifestyle guru about how to expand her business. At Goop, she’ll apply her strategic thinking about marrying content and commerce toward helping Paltrow compete with Stewart and build her own global lifestyle brand.
Gersh, who is attending the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit with Paltrow in Laguna Niguel, California, this week, says she was drawn to what she sees as a triple play: the ability to marry digital content, commerce and advertising. “I love businesses with three revenue streams,” she says. (Watch Paltrow live on stage at the Summit, talking about Goop and Gersh at 7 p.m. EST Tuesday on Fortune.com.)
Goop has been focused on content–from wardrobe to wellness to travel tips, curated by Paltrow and her dozen employees–and has so far generated little revenue. Gersh says that she and Paltrow intend to start bringing in advertising in the first quarter of 2015; they also plan to sell Goop-branded goods as well as other products developed in partnership with established designers. This past summer, Goop collaborated with Diane von Furstenberg on several pieces, including two dresses and a jumpsuit that were sold exclusively on Goop.com.
Gersh says Goop has opportunities to grow in many areas, including beauty and home as well as apparel. “Goop crosses a bunch of different categories,” she says. “We’re deciding where to go first.”
Appropriately for a lifestyle partnership-in-the-making, Paltrow offered Gersh the Goop CEO job over a home-cooked dinner in early June. “Gwyneth invited me over to her house in LA for dinner, which she pulled off effortlessly,” says Gersh. Over “an amazing chicken stir-fry” and salmon with hoisin sauce, the two women brainstormed what Goop’s future might look like with Gersh at the helm. (At one point, they were “appropriately interrupted by a call for homework help” from Paltrow’s two grade school-aged children, Gersh recalls. “That’s real life.”)
Paltrow started Goop in 2008 in London, where she lived with her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. The couple split (or more famously, “consciously uncoupled”) last March; three months later Paltrow moved Goop to Los Angeles and realized she needed to hire a U.S.-based CEO. Paltrow and Gersh met, actually, through another lifestyle entrepreneur, fitness guru Tracy Anderson, last year. Following her exit from Martha Stewart, Gersh was helping Anderson find a CEO for her business; she and Paltrow, who is a friend of Anderson and an aficionado of her intense exercise regimens, bonded over being “two entrepreneurial working moms,” Gersh says.
While their lifestyles now may seem to be in sync, Paltrow and Gersh started out completely different. Paltrow, 42, was raised in Manhattan by her renowned actor parents, Blythe Danner and the late Bruce Paltrow, and attended the tony Spence school. Gersh, 55, grew up in the Bronx, where her dad owned a fabric and needlepoint store and struggled to make ends meet. Gersh went to public school and put herself through college—SUNY Binghamton—and law school at Rutgers.
A challenging childhood—working since she was 12 years old—instilled in Gersh a fierce ambition to succeed. She co-founded Oxygen Media with Geraldine Laybourne in 1998 and served as president and COO there until NBC Universal bought the company in 2007. She stayed on at NBCU as president of strategic initiatives for three years until Martha came calling.
Gersh’s drive isn’t limited to her business career. In September, she won the Liberty National golf club championship near her home in New Jersey. (She has a 10.2 handicap.) And like Paltrow, she’s a Tracy Anderson fanatic—she does the exercise regimen four days a week. Which makes you wonder, could Goop have big ambitions in the exercise business? That would be a good bet.