Twitter Adds BET Network’s Debra Lee to Board in Video Pushby and
Latest member follows two director additions earlier this year
Company had been criticized for lack of diversity in top ranks
Twitter Inc. named Debra L. Lee, chairman and chief executive officer of BET Networks, to its board, the third new director appointed in the past two months while the social media company tries to expand its user base.
Lee, 61, has been CEO for more than a decade at Viacom Inc.’s BET Networks, an entertainment company that focuses on programming aimed at a black audience. She is the first African-American on Twitter’s board.
Twitter, which came under fire last year for a lack of diversity on its board, is betting that Lee’s years of experience at a television network could help expand its struggling user base through promising video services. The company also bolstered its boardroom last month with the appointments of Hugh Johnston, chief financial officer at PepsiCo Inc., and Martha Lane Fox, a member of the U.K. House of Lords and a technology entrepreneur.
“Given Twitter’s desire to increasingly serve as a live video destination versus simply being a source of Tweet anecdotes for public figures, it makes sense to inject media bosses into the board,’’ said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. “In fact we believe more turnover and further expansion of representation from the media industry is critical in executing against that mission.”
Board member Marjorie Scardino will become Twitter’s lead independent director after the annual meeting, the company said Monday in a statement. She succeeds Peter Currie, whose board term is ending with the May 25 meeting.
Twitter is making various efforts to bolster its user base. The company had 310 million users at the end of the first quarter, a fraction of other consumer Internet companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube. As part of that effort, Twitter will stop counting photos and links in its 140-character limit for Tweets, seeking to became more flexible and easier for new users, Bloomberg News reported earlier Monday.
With the addition of Lee, the group now has three women directors. Only 9 percent of directors were black in 2015 among the boards of the largest 200 companies in the S&P 500 Index, according to executive recruiter Spencer Stuart. Rivals Facebook and Alphabet Inc. don’t have have any African-American members, though both have women in their boardrooms.
Lee took to Twitter to say she was happy to be on the board, a move that was effective immediately.
“Thrilled to be joining the @twitter board,” she wrote in the post. “It’s transformed the media and the world like few other things in history (and continues to)!!”
Lee, a graduate of Harvard Law, has been at BET since the 1980s and rose to chairman and CEO in January 2006. During her career, Lee has helped develop documentaries, concert specials and late-night talk shows. She already sits on several boards, including Marriott International, Inc. and WGL Holdings, Inc., an energy company.