Adriana Cisneros on Success as a Third-Generation Family Business CEO

Becton Fellowship Program

Introducing Adriana Cisneros, CEO of the global media and real estate company Cisneros, on January 31, Yale School of Management Dean Edward A. Snyder pointed out that few family business make it to the third generation. How is Cisneros, the third-generation leader of her family’s nearly 90-year-old company, bucking the trend?

Cisneros spoke during a Becton Fellowship Program lecture at the Yale School of Management on January 31; Tim Collins ’82, the Senior Becton Fellow and chair of the Yale SOM Board of Advisors, was the moderator.

For her company, Cisneros said, extending success into another generation began with having a solid transition plan in place.

“My father, [Gustavo Cisneros], could have stayed on running our company for the next 30 years, but instead he decided to make it his own project to figure out the transition early,” said Cisneros. “It was a project that we worked on secretly for five years—it was a five-year conversation that we had between our former CEO, my father, and I… At the end of the five years…when I took over, all the right ingredients were there for me to be able to be successful.”

Included in the transition plan was a major restructuring of the company that Cisneros engineered, and that was put into place prior to her official start as CEO.

Family businesses fail, Cisneros said, when they “choose not to be proactive in organizing that transition…because that’s when the tough questions about decisions are not answered and that’s when the new leader is not given the budget or space to decide what the direction for the company is.”

Today, Cisneros leads a company that includes Venezuela’s leading television network, a production company that distributes Spanish-language content—including a long-running series of popular telenovelas—in the U.S. and around the world, a group of digital advertising businesses, and real estate projects in the U.S. and Latin America. She said that a key to her success was having the solid foundation of her father’s example, noting that a deal she recently negotiated with Facebook was directly modeled after a deal that Gustavo Cisneros had spearheaded that brought DirecTV to Latin America several decades earlier. As a teenager, Adriana Cisneros had accompanied her father on that business trip.

“Years later,” she said, “I realized that I was able to see how it is that you actually launch a pan-regional business…When I came up with this idea of launching what’s now become the largest digital ad network in the world… I knew that I could land in every country in Latin American and that I understood that every country and every city was completely different from each other in terms of their legal entities, their banking entities—and I felt comfortable doing that… The architecture that I did for my deal with Facebook, I didn’t invent—it’s the architecture that he used for the DirecTV deal.”

A Conversation with Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros, a Becton Fellowship Program

About the Event

Please join us on Tuesday, January 31 for A Conversation with Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros. Cisneros is a privately owned media, entertainment, digital media, real estate, tourism resorts, and consumer products company. The event is presented by the Becton Fellowship Program, which brings distinguished practitioners from public and private institutions to Yale to elevate discussions within Yale SOM and to strengthen the school’s relationships across all sectors and regions of the world. 

This event is open to the PUBLIC. Registration Required. Lunch will be served.

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