Greg Blatt is an American executive with substantial experience in the technological industry. Initially entering the workforce as a corporate lawyer, Greg Blatt has had an expansive career spanning from entertainment law to general counsel for Martha Stewart, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment to date has been his decade-long tenure in increasingly senior roles for the massive holding company IAC. Within its umbrella, Blatt has held various leadership positions including Chairman and CEO of not only IAC but also two of its largest subsidiaries Match Group and Tinder. At the helm in these positions, Blatt was able to capitalize on a burgeoning industry and ensure its sustained relevance in the ever-changing tech world.
Your career trajectory has been nonlinear, to say the least. Can you give us a brief outline of the path you took?
Well, I would say I’ve always been a bit of a wandering spirit. My undergraduate degree is in English, and after graduating college I actually took a few years off and traveled all around the world, bartending and picking up the odd job painting houses here or there to support myself. I even spent some time in Telluride living in a tent, just enjoying being as close to the mountains and nature as possible. Seeking further new experiences, I applied to law school on a whim, but attending Columbia was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Law school taught me to think critically — I like to call it athletic training for the brain — and upon graduation, I accepted a position at one of the top mergers and acquisitions law firms in New York. That job was incredibly demanding and while I highly value the strong work ethic I developed there, at the end of it I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted to continue working as a lawyer. I took a job at an entertainment law firm thinking it may be a position I could use to start a career in screenwriting, but happily, I became quite close with our client Martha Stewart who asked me to be general counsel for her company that was in the process of going public. I worked with Martha for four years, until one of my former M&A colleagues recommended me for the VP general counsel position at IAC. The rest you could say is history, and I spent the next decade working for IAC, specifically for their dating website companies. In short, I try to remain open to any and every opportunity presented to me, and trust my gut in deciding which path to take.
Tell us a bit more about your time at IAC and Match Group.
Joining IAC was such an exciting opportunity for me at the time. Although it was the same position I currently held at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the scale of IAC was much larger and I was ready to apply what I had learned in my previous positions to their 100 plus subsidiaries. I soon became something of a mentee to the CEO at the time Barry Diller, who encouraged me to observe as well as participate in the company’s strategic and operating decisions outside of my job as general counsel. I would consider myself particularly adept at problem-solving, so when their subsidiary Match.com was experiencing a rough patch, Barry sent me down to Texas as CEO to provide solutions. It was a pretty quick turnaround, and within months I managed to get the company on a path towards growth again, both financially and through its subscriber base. From then on, I became known for my aptitude towards decision-making for the fast-growing online dating sector and went on to become CEO for both Match Group and Tinder, as well as CEO of IAC itself for a time.
As a CEO, what advice do you have to give on leadership?
As a CEO, your workload is at maximum capacity more often than not, and it can be easy to try and compensate for this by scheduling out your day in minute detail. I am of the opinion that overscheduling obstruct creative and critical thinking, and I personally strive to keep a significant portion of my day open and unscheduled. In this way I am able to keep a healthy balance between working both proactively and reactively, planning ahead for success while also reserving enough time for the unforeseeable necessities. In the same vein, flexibility should also be extended to your personnel in terms of the delegation. As a CEO, it’s your job to make sure you’ve assembled the best team and that they’re all facing the right direction, but after that, it isn’t about getting down to the nitty-gritty with them. It’s empowering them to bring your ideas to life.
The other trait I find crucial to leadership is inquisitiveness. I learned from my time in law school that the most important question you can ask someone is “why?” I’m sure I often sound like a broken record, or perhaps even similar to a precocious child, but if we’re in a meeting and I ask you why you’re proposing a strategy, or why you chose to move in a certain direction, you’d better have an answer for me. Too often in business, I think we proceed with ideas or strategies without having a true dialogue prior to execution, but I believe that dialogue is what spurs innovation.