Via Business Week
How CEO Mindy Grossman has taken HSN from ThighMasters and elastic-waist pants to Serena Williams and top designers
It's 30 minutes to airtime, and Serena Williams—muscled, styled, economical in her movements—sits on a leather couch admiring her navy blue quilted flats. "These are incredibly comfortable shoes," she says. This is not the casual remark of a celebrity killing time in the green room. This is Serena Williams-as-saleswoman, practicing her pitch. Over the next 24 hours, Williams will be live on HSN (HSNI)—the television shopping service formerly known as the Home Shopping Network—for a total of eight hours, hawking pieces from her clothing and jewelry collection to women across America—some 15,000 bracelets, 4,000 flats, 1,900 pairs of jeans, plus sweaters, dresses, T-shirts, and handbags. Every minute she is on air will be measured in dollars, every hour will be scripted, product by product, to build momentum. When it's over, Williams is expected to have sold all of it. On HSN, celebrities have to produce.
The fact that Williams is here at all, linking her reputation to an outlet once known for pushing Suzanne Somers' ThighMaster, shows how far HSN Chief Executive Officer Mindy Grossman has taken the company. When Grossman was recruited for the job in 2006 by Barry Diller, chief executive of HSN's then-corporate parent IAC/InterActiveCorp, she told Diller that she would accept only if he gave her the freedom to turn the place upside down. She had an impressive background, which included nine years at Polo Ralph Lauren (RL), where she launched the Chaps and Polo Jeans lines, and six years at Nike (NKE), where she built up the women's apparel business. She wanted to transform HSN by making it more modern and tasteful: Maybe it would never be hip, it certainly wouldn't try to be edgy, but it could at least be relevant. "I got excited about what it could be, not what it was," she says during an interview at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. "There was not a lot of pride in the culture, and that was shocking to me, especially given where I had come from."
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