Former Facebook CFO’s all-star Executive Dream Team
Gideon Yu is president and co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers and a tech investor who has played an important financial role at several notable tech companies: He has served as CFO of Facebook and YouTube; he’s also been a venture capitalist and led Khosla Ventures’ investment in Square. Last year, Yu made our startup Executive Dream Team as its CFO.
Now it is Yu’s turn to pick his fantasy C-Suite for the Fortune Fantasy Sports Executive League. (Anyone can play, and scoring depends, in part, on how closely the player’s picks match those of experts like Yu and the editors of Fortune, who aim, as we wrote last year, “to field a team that could coalesce and dominate in any industry.”) Yu spoke to Fortune’s Daniel Roberts about the logic behind his Dream Team picks. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Gideon Yu: My overall philosophy was similar to how I pick my fantasy football team — namely, not thinking through how these players would fit together, but just picking the best player at each position.Where possible, I tried to err on the side of longer-term successful track records and focused on those who have proven an ability to repeat those successes in multiple industries and markets. Although my team is certainly technology-heavy, the deep integration of tech and media into literally every facet of society and industry dictates that an Executive Dream Team for 2012 should be highly tech-savvy.
COO, Steve Burke. From everything I understand from those that know Steve and have worked with him, he was the operating heart and soul of Comcast’s (CMCSA) big run. Also, he is the consummate COO or No. 2 — not seeking his own public spotlight or PR — making all around him, especially his CEO Brian Roberts, better.
Larry Ellison is my chief strategist. A great chief strategist should have incredibly grandiose and audacious goals, and the balls to go for them, and the ability to ignore and potentially even feed off of any naysayers. Few fit this description better than Larry Ellison.
My CIO would be Cadir Lee. For those that understand scaling a large Internet property, one of the biggest challenges is not necessarily the overall number of users, but managing concurrent users. Few companies face this issue and handle it as well as Zynga (ZNGA). Also, moving Zynga to its own platform and lessening its dependence on Facebook (FB) is an enormous technical challenge.
Bill Campbell would be my non-exec Chairman. What hasn’t been said about this Silicon Valley gem? My short answer is that both Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt sought his advice and counsel weekly, even while their companies were clearly becoming bitter strategic rivals. He continues to stay relevant by mentoring and counseling the next crop of great Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and execs. I myself have been fortunate enough to receive mentoring from him, and to this day I still utilize his lessons.
Jack Dorsey for designer. I think great design is so much more than just aesthetics. It’s about an obsessive drive to simplify and improve the customer experience. From that lens, what Jack has done at Square to combat the horrific and arcane world of small businesses signing up to accept credit cards, as well as what he’s done at Twitter, puts him in a very elite cohort.
David Viniar gets my CFO slot. Although it’s easy to vilify any of the major players on Wall Street, David Viniar is the cream of the crop of CFOs. And as a former CFO myself, he’s one that I emulate. He has very successfully led Goldman’s (GS) risk management at a time when many bigger and better capitalized banks are stumbling, and perhaps more importantly, he has unassailable integrity.
My CMO is Ron Johnson. Although it’s still too early to tell whether he keeps his streak alive at JC Penney (JCP), what he did at Target (TGT) to turn a retailer that otherwise competed with the likes of Sears (SHLD) and Kmart into a hip, desirable brand is nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion. Obviously, his work leading the Apple Store (AAPL) and their amazing user experience is widely lauded and well documented.
Utility player: This was a very tough choice for me. Reid Hoffman is one of the greatest entrepreneurs and investors in technology, and someone I deeply admire. However, if I were to pick someone from this list to bring into any company in any industry and make a high-level, lasting impact, there are few executives in the history of American business with a better track record than Lou Gerstner. His innovations at AmEx (AXP) are still highly impactful today, and his reversal of IBM’s (IBM) strategic missteps will always be remembered as one of the best turnarounds ever.
Finally, for CEO, there are many stars to choose from here but my pick goes to Jeff Bezos. The fact that he boldly continues to reinvent Amazon (AMZN) and add wildly successful products (like Kindle) and services (like Prime, or Amazon Web Services) that many pundits initially panned is absolutely amazing. I will admit that when it was just a bookseller I was a skeptic of Amazon’s viability as a business and also of Jeff’s strategic leadership, but he has proven to be what I look for in a CEO — a bold visionary that implements big strategies, sometimes despite conventional wisdom.