Zillow CFO Kathleen Philips leaves at short notice

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After less than three years in the position
  • Accolades, praise, thanks and words of regret for Philips
  • Jennifer Rock taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

(exechange) — Seattle, Washington, May 7, 2018 — Kathleen Philips, finance chief of Zillow, leaves. It is a change at short notice. As announced by Zillow Group, Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, May 7, 2018, Kathleen Philips leaves her post as Chief Financial Officer at the online real estate database company after less than three years in the position, effective May 31, 2018.

No company wants a CFO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months was 6.7 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 31 percent of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within three years.

Zillow will undertake a search for a successor.

Philips’s duties will be taken over in the interim by Jennifer Rock, currently vice president of financial reporting, technical accounting and FP&A of Zillow Group, Inc.

No reason given

In the announcement, Zillow did not explicitly explain the reason for Philips’s imminent move, leaving room for speculation.

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often a wake-up call for stockholders when a CFO leaves the position at short notice and without a reasonable explanation.

“Retiring”

Zillow said: “Chief Financial Officer and Chief Legal Officer Kathleen Philips is retiring from her role as CFO effective May 31, 2018.”

Zillow further said: “Ms. Rock will succeed Kathleen Philips, who has informed the company of her intention to retire from her roles as Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer, Treasurer, and Corporate Secretary as of May 31, 2018.”

Chaired by Rich Barton

Zillow Group, Inc. is chaired by Rich Barton.

Barton is co-founder and Executive Chairman of the board of Zillow Group. Barton served as Chief Executive Officer from 2004 until September 2010.

CEO: Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as CEO of Zillow Group, Inc. Rascoff has been the Chief Executive Officer of Zillow Group, Inc. since September 14, 2010.

In the position of CFO since 2015

Kathleen Philips has been the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Zillow Group, Inc. since August 2015.

As chief financial officer, Philips oversees finance, treasury and accounting as well as legal operations and corporate development for Zillow Group and its portfolio of brands.

Philips joined Zillow in 2010 as general counsel, and served as chief operating officer from 2013 to 2015.

Philips has played a pivotal role in all of Zillow’s key corporate finance initiatives including Zillow’s 2011 initial public offering, two follow-on equity offerings, and all 13 of the company’s acquisitions, including Trulia, StreetEasy, HotPads and Naked Apartments.

As COO, she ran mergers and acquisitions, corporate development, human resources, legal and customer support.

Philips serves on the board of directors of Apptio, a publicly traded provider of business management software-as-a-service applications, and TPG Pace Holdings Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company.

Philips has received numerous awards including: Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2017 CFO of the Year for a large public company, Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2012 Outstanding Corporate Counsel of the Year, Seattle Business Magazine’s 2013 General Counsel of the Year, San Francisco Business Times’ 2013 Corporate Counsel of the Year finalist, and honoree in San Francisco Business Times’ Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business 2014.

Before joining Zillow, Philips served as General Counsel of Hotwire, StubHub, Flip Video camera maker Pure Digital Technologies, and FanSnap.

Philips received her juris doctor with honors from University of Chicago Law School, and received her bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley.

Philips is on the board of directors of Apptio and currently serves on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School.

Philips, who joined the company as general counsel in 2010, will step down as CFO and continue to serve as chief legal officer through the end of 2018 and transition toward retirement in 2020.

She will continue to advise Zillow Group on legal, corporate development, and finance matters after 2018.

Unplanned

As a general rule, when a top manager announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it’s a signal that the change was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Kathleen Philips’s imminent move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 20.2018 ($).