samir arora
Mode Media Japan

Mode Media Japan lives on, with founder Samir Arora as chairman

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Mode Media is coming back from the dead — at least in Asia.

The company operated properties like Glam, Tend and Brash, as well as a broader digital advertising business, but it shut down abruptly last fall. Yet there were signs of life in January, with the announcement that Mode’s Japanese subsidiary (a joint venture with ad agencies Dentsu and ADK, as well as publishers Shogagukan, Shueisha, and Nikkei BP, plus Mizuho Capital) had been acquired by a newly formed investment group called Montaro.

Now Mode Media Japan is announcing that it’s put a leadership team in place, including Executive Chairman Samir Arora (Mode’s founder and former CEO), CEO Yusuke Akiba (who previously served as general manager for Mode Japan) and CFO Minako Matsushita.

Arora’s involvement is particularly surprising, since he stepped down as CEO in April, then left the company’s board, as did investor Marc Andreessen.

A couple of reports placed much of the blame for Mode’s fate on Arora and his “seemingly inappropriate spending,” but it’s worth repeating that at the time of the actual shutdown, the company was controlled by investor Hubert Burda Media. In fact, Arora pointed to the fact that he slashed his own salary in the 2008 downturn as evidence that he protects his employees. He said that if he’d still been at Mode, the shutdown would have played out differently — rather than leaving creators unpaid and employees without severance.

“I wish we could have been there,” Arora said. “We would have either saved it or dealt with the ending in a much better way.”

To be clear, Arora isn’t coming back to Mode full-time — he’s still working on his Woodside Incubator and on a stealth startup. But he said Akiba approached him to help with the turnaround, resulting in a frantic six-week period of rebuilding Mode Japan’s technology and operations.

At this point, he said the company is “fully operational” again.

And there are plans beyond Asia, with Mode Japan becoming an affiliate of a new global media company under a new (unannounced) name. While this company will be launching in many of Mode’s old markets, Arora said it will be pursuing new ideas: “We have no intentions of trying to create another Mode.”