As part of the announcement this morning that Flipboard is acquiring Zite from CNN, executives from both companies emphasized that bringing on the Zite team was a big part of the deal. However, that won’t include Zite CEO Mark Johnson.
KC Estenson, the head of CNN Digital, said that as Johnson and Flipboard CEO Mike McCue talked, they reached “a mutual agreement” that Johnson would “go and do his own things and pursue independent paths.” At the same time, Estenson noted that Zite CTO Mike Klaas will be joining Flipboard to lead personalization, and “his whole engineering team” will be joining too.
In a post on LinkedIn, Johnson talked about the deal and his plans for the future. He said that the team has tripled in the two and a half years since it was acquired by CNN, and that Zite operated largely as an independent startup within the larger company (indicated, in part, by the fact that Johnson kept the CEO title). As for Zite and Flipboard, he said the combination will be “an epic force.”
“Zite has a small but stellar team with expertise in building a discovery engine and an interface to harness the full power of that engine,” Johnson said. “With Flipboard, Zite’s technology finds a distribution megaphone of tens of millions of users. Zite’s team will find a new home to realize our dream of building the world’s best place to discover content.”
He added that “my situation is a bit different and I won’t be joining Flipboard.” He wants to start a company of his own, although it doesn’t sound like he knows exactly what it will be yet: “I’ve decided to take some time off to think, hike, consult, travel, advise, meet, write, dream, read, study, and – probably most importantly – relax. For me, the best ideas come when I’m not looking for them.”