Verizon's Marni Walden Opens Up About Her Exit, Talks Media M&A Frenzy

Marni Walden - Viva Movil by Jennifer Lopez Announcement 2013 - Getty - H 2017
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The Verizon executive in charge of combining AOL and Yahoo says she is "disappointed" that she didn't make more progress advancing the careers of women inside the telecom giant.

Verizon's top media executive is setting the record straight on why she will leave the telecom giant early next year. 

Marni Walden, Verizon's executive vp and president of global media, says that she made the decision to depart the company once it became clear that she was not in the running to replace CEO Lowell McAdam

"Lowell and I have a very good relationship. I've worked for him for many years," she told the crowd at the Business Insider Ignition Conference in New York on Wednesday morning. "There's life outside of wireless and the infrastructure business, and I want to go do something that I can run." 

Walden has spent most of her career at Verizon working on, and later running, its wireless business. It was only three years ago that she transitioned into the role that led her to oversee the integration of first AOL and, more recently, Yahoo into the Verizon business. Together with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, she worked to create the new division, Oath, that now encompasses all of Verizon's media and advertising businesses. 

Verizon has taken some heat for its handling of the Yahoo acquisition, namely the revelation at the search and Internet company had suffered from two large data breaches prior to its sale. After that disclosure, Verizon cut its purchase price and, after a lengthy investigation, completed the acquisition in June of this year. 

Walden's departure comes at a critical moment for women in media and entertainment, following a wave of sexual harassment allegations that began when several women came forward against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Walden acknowledges that she is "disappointed that I didn't make more progress" during her time at Verizon. "You need to force the issue around making sure that slates are diverse," she added.

For a long time, Walden has been McAdam's only female direct report. He recently appointed Rima Qureshi as executive vp and chief strategy officer, a move that Walden notes means "there will be two of us" until she departs the company at the end of February.

During her short time on stage, Walden also addressed the increasing appetite for M&A in the media space over the last year, though she declined to reveal specifics about Verizon's plans. She said she would not be revealing what deal McAdam was hinting at this September when he said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, "I wouldn't be surprised if sometime before the end of September you hear about one of" Verizon's new content deals. And Walden said she "was not the one who reached out to Fox, so I don't know that," when asked about Verizon's reported interest in the media conglomerate.