Cisneros said her father and Steven Bandel, the longtime CEO, thought she was ready to move on from digital strategy to the CEO position long before she did. Behind the scenes, Bandel privately had groomed her to take over his job: “From Steven I have learned that patience is a powerful virtue, that passion paired with discipline is a winning combination, that human capital is the most valuable asset in our company. Above all, he has shown me that as an organization, we thrive on challenge.”
The first challenge came immediately in the company structure. When she stepped up to become CEO, Cisneros said she realized that she couldn’t lead the company the way Bandel has structured it. “He spent 30 years at the company; he could manage it perfectly because he grew up in it,” she explained.
The company’s diversified businesses in Latin America, the United States and Canada range from broadcast television, television production, and telecommunications to consumer products, travel resorts and a 6,000 acre real estate endeavor in the Dominican Republic. It has interests in more than 30 businesses.
Now, those companies have been restructured into three corporate divisions — media, real estate and interactive —along with businesses in consumer products and services. Each division is headed by a president who reports to Cisneros:
“We got rid of the silos and unified the units that should have been working more in unison.”
It will be Cisneros’ job to steer the company into the future, a tricky proposition at a time when the way entertainment is produced and consumed is evolving and media has become an increasingly competitive business: “We will have to figure out how to provide the best experiences for Hispanic audiences here in the U.S., and that goes from looking at e-commerce projects to the way we produce TV shows.”
Investment in new media initiatives will be a priority, she said.
Ana Maria Fernández Haar, vice chair of the New America Alliance, an American Latino Business Initiative, said the Hispanic audience has become varied and more segmented with more of them wanting their English language proficiency addressed in the media they consume. That creates challenges and opportunities for a millennial CEO like Cisneros, she said. “She’s leading at the right time. She’s the right age, from the right background… I would not be surprised if she institutes changes immediately.” Haar thinks we have just seen the beginning of how technology will affect media and that Cisneros will have to be willing to take risks: “Many things will be tried and they will flop, and others will succeed.”
Bandel said Cisneros has proved she will take calculated risks. “She is a leader who dares to bet on sectors such as online advertising and digital e-commerce as well as real estate development.” At first glance, some of her initiatives seemed to be a deviation from the company’s core business, he said. “But under her leadership, they are becoming fundamental pillars of the organization.”
Expansion has long been an unpredictable, high-stakes game. Of course, so has maintaining status quo in an evolving industry. Cisneros’s biggest focus these days is managing a large business while growing it even larger. “The company has been growing at a very fast pace for a long period of time. All that growth was driven by the incredible ideas my father had and a great team that helped him executive them. I find that daunting,” she said. She argues that she has the big ideas but needs to focus more on the execution.