4/11/18 — by Brian Heater, Tech Crunch; Original article here.
While Mark Zuckerberg gets the grilling of a lifetime on Capitol Hill, the firm at the center of all of this is losing its top executive. As day two of the Facebook testimony was unfolding, Cambridge Analytica sent out a brief statement from its Board of Directors, noting that acting CEO Alexander Tayler was stepping down from the gig.
The two sentence press release thanked Tayler, “for his service in what has been a challenging time for the company.”
Well, yeah. Tayler will be sticking with Cambridge Analytica, however, returning to his former role as Chief Data Officer.
Tayler stepped into the temporary after it was vacated in late-March, when then-CEO Alexander Nix was suspended following the release of an undercover video shot by the UK’s Channel 4 News. Shortly after his appointment, Tayler reportedly told employees that he didn’t expect Nix to return to the company.
The exact reason for this latest move isn’t clear just yet. The company says the executive did so “in order to focus on the various technical investigations and inquiries,” but given everything swirling around the company at the moment, it’s probably safe to say that there’s a little more to it than that. Cambridge Analytica has yet to name a temporary (or permanent) replacement for its temporary replacement.
The company has been at the center of Facebook’s latest controversy ever since it was revealed that as many as 87 million users potentially had their data exposed to the firm. Even more damning information has been exposed over the course of Zuckerberg’s two-day grilling, including the revelation that users’ inboxes may have also been exposed.
The firm, meanwhile, has been attempting to do damage control on social media over the last 48 hours — but most of the damage is, no doubt, already done.
Cambridge Analytica CEO Post Goes to Julian Wheatland
April 11, 2018 6:03 p.m. ET — By Rebecca Ballhaus and Keach Hagey; Original article here.
Cambridge Analytica’s acting Chief Executive Alex Tayler told the company’s leadership Wednesday that Julian Wheatland, the chairman of Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm, SCL Group. would take over as the company’s next chief executive, according to people familiar with the matter.
“SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations worldwide. For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioral change programs in over 60 countries & have been formally recognized for our work in defense & social change.”
Alexander Nix, the former CEO who was suspended last month following the release of a video that depicted him touting campaign tactics such as entrapping political opponents with bribes and sex, has officially resigned from his position, according to a person close to the company.
Mr. Tayler, who was appointed acting CEO about three weeks ago, on Wednesday returned to his previous role as the company’s chief data officer, the company said in a statement. In that role, he will “focus on the various technical investigations and inquiries,” the statement said.
The company didn’t announce a new CEO in that statement. When Mr. Tayler told employees Wednesday he was stepping down, he said the company didn’t yet have a replacement for him, according to another person familiar with the matter.
A company spokesman said any discussion of Mr. Wheatland’s new role was “speculation” and denied that Mr. Nix had submitted his resignation, saying “the independent inquiring is ongoing.” Mr. Tayler, an engineer by training, wasn’t comfortable being the top executive at the company, according to people familiar with the matter. During a conference call with colleagues on Tuesday, he complained of feeling like he looked “red in the face” whenever he appeared on camera, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A company spokesperson denied that Mr. Tayler made this comment, adding, “He is most needed on the tech side of the company and that’s where his focus is.” Another person said Mr. Tayler wasn’t pushed out of his role. He had been appointed after Mr. Nix’s suspension, which came as Cambridge Analytica launched an independent investigation following the release of his sales pitch, captured by undercover journalists at British broadcaster Channel 4. People close to the company said appointing Mr. Tayler as acting CEO did little to resolve the ethical issues posed by Mr. Nix’s comments in the Channel 4 video. Mr. Tayler was also present for some of the videotaped comments.
Mr. Nix’s suspension also follows reports that the company improperly used data from millions of Facebook Inc. profiles without authorization.
Mr. Wheatland is the chairman of SCL Group, the British affiliate and parent of Cambridge Analytica. He also serves as a director on a separate company, called Emerdata Ltd., where Mr. Nix is also a board member. Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of billionaire hedge-fund executive Robert Mercer who partly owns Cambridge Analytica, also sits on Emerdata’s board.
Cambridge Analytica’s business has taken a hit in recent months. Since the 2016 election, Cambridge Analytica hasn’t retained a single federal political client, according to Federal Election Commission filings. It had instead focused largely on commercial work, with a roster of about 20 clients—roughly a quarter of whom have left the company in recent weeks, according to people close to the company.