Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Walker became our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer on August 23, 2021 and, from 2018 until the completion of the Organizational Transactions, served in the role of Managing Partner of the Company. Prior to founding Direct Digital Holdings with Mr. Smith, Mr. Walker worked at CVG Group, LLC, (“CVG Group”) a private equity firm, from October 2016 to May 2019 as the Chief Operating Officer responsible for the operations of the portfolio companies within CVG Group’s holdings. In this role, he was the Acting COO for Ebony Media Operations, (“Ebony Media”) where he was responsible for initiating and overseeing the digital transformation of Ebony Media from a print publication to a digital-first organization. Prior to CVG Group and Ebony Media, he worked for the largest retail electricity provider within the United States, NRG Energy, from 2005 to 2016, in positions of progressively increasing scope and responsibility. While at NRG Energy, he built multiple revenue streams through digital, retail and business development activities while increasing overall revenue to NRG Energy, where he represented approximately 40% of new revenue of NRG Energy Home division. Mr. Walker brings nearly 20 years of experience building relationships and revenue generating operations for Fortune 500 corporations, working in business development and marketing for Deloitte, and startup organizations. Throughout his career, Mr. Walker has sat on multiple advisory boards within the industry, such as Hitwise and Dentsu Aegis, and has written multiple articles and case studies that have been showcased in Jupiter Research and Search Engine Watch. Mr. Walker holds a B.A. in Economics from The University of Texas and was a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Texas Alumni Association.
President and Director
Mr. Smith is a co-founder of the Company and became our President on August 23, 2021 and, from 2018 until the completion of the Organizational Transactions, served in the role of Managing Partner of the Company. Prior to founding Direct Digital Holdings, Mr. Smith was a Managing Partner at Parkview Advisors, LLC, and President and CEO of Parkview Capital Credit, Inc., from November 2014 to April 2020, where he invested and managed more than $75 million with small-and mid-sized businesses to provide acquisition and growth capital. Prior to Parkview, Mr. Smith served as Managing Director for a private equity, direct lending platform, Capital Point Partners, where he invested and managed more than $150 million in direct lending first lien, second lien and mezzanine investments, as well as complimentary minority equity investments. Prior to Capital Point Partners, he worked for Rabobank International (“RI”) from 2006 to 2009, where he was a Vice President and Portfolio Manager of more than $2 billion in direct lending and structured credit bank assets for one of the company’s special investment vehicles. He played a key role in originating new client transactions as well as managing a book of existing bank clients. Prior to RI, he was an Associate Director in the Structured Finance Group of Standard & Poor’s from 2003 to 2006, where he analyzed and rated transactions across a broad spectrum of asset types. In addition to his investment banking background, Mr. Smith also has over six years of legal experience as an attorney and has served on the boards of numerous portfolio companies. Mr. Smith holds a B.A. in Economics from The University of Texas at Austin; a J.D. from Southern Methodist University; and an M.B.A. from The Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.
Mr. Cohen became a member of our board of directors in November 2021. He has served as President of Richard M Cohen Consultants since 1996, where he provides corporate financial consulting services to a number of clients. Mr. Cohen served as Founder and Managing Partner of Chord Advisors from March 2012 to July 2015, a firm providing outsourced CFO services to both public and private companies. Prior to founding Chord Advisors, Mr. Cohen served as the Interim CEO, and as a member of the board of directors, of CorMedix Inc., from March 2012 to July 2015. Mr. Cohen has also served as a partner with Novation Capital from July 2001 to August 2012 until its sale to a private equity firm. He has served as a member of numerous boards and committees, including as a member of the audit committee of Rodman and Renshaw, an investment banking firm, from July 2008 to August 2012, and as a member of the board of directors of Great Elm Capital Corp., a public company which operates as a management investment company, since March 2022; Smart for Life, Inc., a public company which develops, manufactures and sells nutritional and related products, since February 2022; 20/20 GeneSystems Inc., a private company in the digital diagnostics sector, since 2018; Ondas Networks, Inc., a public company which provides private wireless data and drone solutions, since 2016; and Helix BioMedix, a former public company specializing in dermatology and consumer products, since 2005, where he has also served as a member of the audit committee. We believe that Mr. Cohen is qualified to serve as a member of our board of directors because of his extensive financial experience, as well as his leadership and management skills gained from his prior board experience. He holds a B.S. with honors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
Antoinette R. Leatherberry
Ms. Leatherberry became a member of our board of directors in November 2021. Ms. Leatherberry retired from Deloitte, a consulting, audit, tax and advisory services company, in September 2020, where she served in a number of roles during her 30-year career, including Board Relations Leader for the Risk and Financial Advisory practice, from September 2017 to September 2020, and Principal, Technology Strategy, from 2008 to August 2017. She also served as President of the Deloitte Foundation, from 2016 until her retirement. Ms. Leatherberry has served as a member of the board of directors, audit committee, and human resource committee of Zoetis Inc., a public animal health company, since December 2020, and as a member of the board of directors, the nominating and governance committee, and the compensation committee of American Family Insurance Mutual Holding Company, Inc., a private mutual company, since January 2021. She has also served on the Widener University Board of Trustees, since 2015, and the Boston University Board of Trustees since September 2020. She previously served as chair of The Executive Leadership Council from January 2019 until December 2020. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University and an M.B.A. in Operations Management and Supervision from Northeastern University.
Locke joins the Direct Digital Holdings Board of Directors following a successful tenure as Chief Marketing Officer for industry leader Dentsu Media. Prior to that, Locke served in several senior executive positions for iProspect, including President of iProspect Americas, Global Chief Client Officer and Global Chief Marketing Officer. Locke transformed iProspect, a company that she helped grow through a merger in 2008 with her company, Range Online Media, from an SEO brand into the largest and most innovative digital media and performance agency in the world scaled across more than 90 markets with more than 8,000 media and performance specialists.
In her career, Locke has worked with some of the world's most iconic brands, including General Motors, Adidas, NIKE, The GAP Brands, Microsoft, Estée Lauder Companies, Accor Hotels, Burberry, Heineken and Kering. She also received the e-Microsoft Bing "Lifetime Achievement" award, for her contribution to the digital advertising industry, and Fast Company listed her on its list of "25 Top Women Business Builders."