Barstool Sports has taken a lot of criticism for misogyny and harassment from both its writers and its readers in the past, so it’s remarkable to see that their new CEO is a woman. That would be Erika Nardini, who most recently was president and chief revenue officer at direct-to-consumer influencer platform Bkstg, but also has worked as the chief marketing officer at AOL and worked for Demand Media, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Here’s the “emergency press conference” Barstool held for this announcement, which, like their January announcement of The Chernin Group’s purchase of a majority stake in Barstool for several million dollars, was held in Times Square and featured a range of attire from tuxedos to undone shirts (but this time, at least there’s a literal mike drop):
Emergency Press Conference – Introducing the New CEO of Barstool Sports pic.twitter.com/Guha4YcQmL
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) July 19, 2016
Nardini’s hire fits with the “non-editorial management shuffle” Noah Kulwin of Re/code reported would happen in January following the Chernin investment , but don’t expect it to dramatically change the site’s content. In fact, Nardini told Fortune she’s long been a big fan of Barstool:
“I’ve been hugely passionate about the site for a long time, which I told Chernin,” Nardini explains to Fortune. “And we began discussing how to apply the same level of grit to the business of Barstool as Dave [founder and editorial leader Dave Portnoy] does to the content side.”
…“As a person, I feel that Barstool is funny and incredibly engaging,” Nardini adds. “As a woman, I’m psyched to take this CEO job, and I’m going to rock it.”
And Portnoy’s role in determining the site’s content and voice doesn’t appear set to change any time soon either:
For his part, Portnoy felt that Nardini was “a perfect fit.”
“When I first met with Chernin, they asked what I would do if someone gave me a lot of money to invest in the business,” Portnoy continues. “One key part was that we needed a CEO, because there are a lot of opportunities we haven’t made the most of. But that person needed to understand our voice and our audience, which is a big part of why we picked Erika. I don’t look at it as giving up control, but rather that she and I are a team… and I’m very comfortable that we’ll get along, even when we disagree, which I’m sure we will.”
Portnoy will continue to oversee Barstool editorial, which soon will include video production from a new studio in New York City. Nardini, who most recently was president and chief revenue officer with startup Bkstg, will focus on continuing to grow the audience—with a continued focus on 18 to 49 year-old males—while expanding distribution, signing business development deals, and making commerce feel more like content through events, merchandising, and more.
So, it’s unlikely this move will silence Barstool’s critics. It will be worth watching where the site goes from here, though; their offensive-to-some content has been a big part of making them stand out in a crowded media landscape, but it’s harder to be offensive and edgy when you’re a multimillion-dollar company (although it’s notable that Chernin appointee to the board Mike Kerns also has publicly said he has no problems with the site’s content). It also will be interesting to see how business-development deals and “making commerce feel more like content” play with the Barstool audience, as well as how Nardini’s hire is received overall. They got some not-so-positive responses on Twitter (language warning):
— Nick James (@Jick_488) July 19, 2016
@barstoolsports Is she single?
— Justin Ptak (@JPtak) July 19, 2016
And there were also some others we can’t print here. So, there are clearly at least some Barstool readers not thrilled about the idea of a woman as CEO. It will be interesting to watch and see how things change for the site after this.