Monday, January 18, 2010

On stability, and the end of the Bateman Blip

I am cursed with being a Washington Redskins fan, and I remember reading an observation that because of the myriad changes in the Redskins' coaching staff over the years, the players have to learn a new offensive strategy fairly frequently - sometimes every year or so. So just when you have mastered the instructions of the current offensive coordinator or head coach, they get shipped out and the new offensive coordinator or head coach implements a brand new strategy that you have to learn.

But this doesn't just happen with the Redskins. Far from it:

CARLSBAD, Calif., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NTN) today announced that Terry Bateman, Chief Executive Officer, has announced his intention to resign. Mr. Bateman will remain active on the Board of Directors and be involved in finding his replacement. The Board of Directors...expects this process to be completed in the second quarter of 2010....

"We have made considerable progress towards achieving our operating objectives, and I continue to believe in the fundamental strength of the business," said Terry Bateman. "I am stepping down for personal reasons, but will remain on the Board of Directors to help oversee the strategic initiatives put in place over the last year, and I will also participate in the search for my successor, in order to ensure a smooth transition. I remain confident in the Company's continued success."

"Terry has been instrumental in the turnaround of NTN Buzztime's business and has been a tremendous leader," noted Chairman Jeff Berg. "The positive effects that Terry has had on the business are substantial, as underscored by our performance in the fourth quarter of 2009, which is expected to show EBITDA higher than any recorded in the past six quarters, as well as positive cash flow. While we are disappointed to see him leave, we understand and respect his decision, and look forward to his participation as an active, non-executive member of the Board, where his advice and judgment, informed by his tenure as CEO, will be tremendously valuable."

Thus ends the Bateman era - or, more accurately, the Bateman blip. This blog has covered the entire Bateman blip, beginning with his October 2008 appointment to the Board of Directors, the November 2008 appointment of Bateman to participate in a strategic analysis (at the same time that Jeff Berg became Chairman of the Board after Michael Fleming's departure), Bateman's February 2009 appointment as CEO, the beginnings of a new strategy in March 2009, the acquisitions in April and May, and - most importantly - the strategic reduction in pricing that decreased revenue, but upped the site count.

So now they're going to bring in a new CEO. It's only been about 11 months since they brought in the last CEO. Heck, Lane Kiffin stayed at Tennessee for 14 months.

Now perhaps Bateman's departure was unavoidable. We'll probably never know, because whenever someone cites "personal reasons," the implication is that you can't ask what those reasons were.

But while Berg, Bateman, and the rest may be hoping that they can get a CEO who carries out the old strategy to the letter, CEOs don't work that way. Any CEO worth his or her salt is going to want to implement his or her own personal strategy. And for all we know, that strategy may be the exact opposite of the Bateman strategy.

So we'll wait and see...