February 27, 2017 – Chief financial officers continue to be in high demand and hunting them down is keeping many of the nation’s leading recruitment operations busier than ever. Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has just been selected by billion dollar Canadian online gambling operator Amaya to lead its search for a new finance chief.
Daniel Sebag has advised Amaya that he will retire as CFO later this year once his successor is identified and appointed. But he will stick around long enough to assist the company in ensuring an orderly transition of his duties. The board of directors has retained Spencer Stuart to advise the board and launch a global CFO search.
Mr. Sebag joined Amaya in 2007 as its first CFO and managed its finances and accounting as a start-up through its initial public offering (IPO) and its transformation to a consumer technology company through the $4.9 billion Rational Group acquisition in 2014.
Amaya is a provider of technology-based products and services in the global gaming and interactive entertainment industries. It owns multiple gaming and related consumer businesses and brands, which together have more than 108 million registered customers globally and collectively form the largest poker business in the world.
For its part, Spencer Stuart has conducted more than 1,400 finance searches over the past 24 months for clients that include Fortune 500, FTSE 100, DAX 30 and HS 100 companies, as well as private equity firms and their portfolio companies, emerging companies and non-profit organizations. Financial services is one of the firm’s top producing global search practice sectors, which is today comprised of a team of 40 consultants. Joel von Ranson leads Spencer Stuart’s financial officer practice in North America.
High Demand for Finance Talent
This past summer, Spencer Stuart was retained by Choice Hotels International to lead its search for a new CFO. In addition, the firm was tapped by Entercom Communications Corp. in November to find its next CFO. Both searches are still ongoing.
Recruiters say a need for top flight financial executives has risen, making CFOs much more in demand than other C-suite leaders. And that begs an interesting question: What are ‘actively-looking’ CEOs most after as they team up with headhunters in the pursuit of their next CFO? The position generally serves as right hand man to the chief executive so the perfect match is critical.
One trait every CEO desperately seeks in his or her next CFO is leadership. “More and more often, the CFO is viewed as the No. 2 executive within a public company,” said Phil McCall, a Crist | Kolder Associates managing director. “That perception is consistent with both insiders (peers, managers), and outsiders (analysts, investors, and board members),” he added. “Because a public company CEO is so time constrained, the CFO is expected to take his or her place at certain times. When that happens, you need a CFO who won’t shirk from those responsibilities, but rather, will instill a following.”
Recent CFO Searches
In recent months search firms of all sizes have placed CFOs at various companies. Here’s a look at just a few from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
- The McAulay Smith Firm recruited Alexander Pease as executive vice president and CFO of Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. President Steven Smith led the assignment. Mr. Pease joins the company from McKinsey & Co., where he was a leader in the firm’s global corporate finance and business functions practice working with leading CFOs across a wide range of industries.
- BridgeStreet Partners tapped Temple H. Weiss as CFO of Centennial Real Estate Company. Dave Westberry, managing director of BridgeStreet Partners, led the assignment. Previously, Mr. Weiss served as CFO of several private equity-owned portfolio companies, including CEC Entertainment, Pegasus Solutions and Ace Cash Express.
- WinterWyman placed Gary Eason as CFO at TG Gallagher. Senior vice president and partner Ken Martin led the search. Previously, Mr. Eason was director of finance for Interstate Electrical Services Corporation and the director of finance and administration for Triumph Modular Incorporated.
- Caldwell Partners recruited Kevin Cash as CFO of law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Michael DeCosta, a partner and leader in the firm’s professional services practice, led the search along with Kristin Hebert, a leader of Caldwell’s legal practice and managing partner of its San Francisco office. Mr. Cash previously served as CFO of law firm BakerHostetler.
- Odgers Berndtson placed Paul S. Herendeen as executive vice president of finance and CFO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. John Hawkins, vice chairman and director in Odgers Berndtson’s life sciences practice, led the assignment. Mr. Herendeen previously served as EVP and CFO of Zoetis Inc.
- Bespoke Partners recruited Bob Bies as CFO of Syncsort. Previously, Mr. Bies was CFO at private equity-backed Cannondale Investments, where he was part of the leadership team that acquired OneSource from InfoGroup and formed Avention.
- PFM Executive Search placed Nelson Chan as CFO of Capital Regional District (CRD). Mr. Chan has experience in both the public and private sectors and is regarded as a collaborative, action-oriented leader and change driver with a refined business acumen.
- NorthWind Partners recruited Kevin L. Cook as CFO of Alion Science and Technology Corporation. Managing partner Mark HuYoung, who leads the firm’s private equity practice, along with partners Hunter Murray and Brian Thomas, led the search. Mr. Cook formerly served as CFO of Booz Allen Hamilton.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media