After a 17-year career at tech publisher CMP Media, Mitchell York has moved from content to commerce on the Internet.
The former VP of CMPnet last week became president of LendingTree, Charlotte, N.C., an online loan center that connects buyers and lenders.
LendingTree's online loan services are a natural fit with the Web and "give power to consumers," said Mr. York, whose CMP career spanned real estate, travel and computers. He started out as a reporter for CMP's Building Journal and eventually became publisher of VAR Business before launching TechWeb, the precursor to CMPnet, in 1994.
"Utility-based models are the ones that will be the most valuable in the future," said Mr. York. "I'm a little suspicious of getting online to commune as opposed to getting online to do something."
Mr. York said his goal is to grow LendingTree to be the leader in online lending by harnessing the power of its senior management and relationships with banks and other online partners.
Already, the company has a roster of heavy-hitting executives. Chairman-Chief Financial Officer Robert Wilson was a general partner at investment banker Goldman, Sachs & Co. for 17 years; founder-CEO Douglas Lebda worked for Price Waterhouse in its audit and business advisory services group; James Bennett, VP-marketing and business development, founded online book resource BookWire; and Richard Stiegler, chief technology officer, was VP-advanced technology at Greenwich Capital Markets.
Also last week, LendingTree named to its board Gene Lockhart, former president of BankAmerica Corp.'s Global Retail Bank and former CEO of MasterCard International.
LendingTree plans to differentiate itself from competitors by offering many types of loans, such as mortgages, personal loans and credit card applications, as well as partnering with a network of lending institutions to offer its users a wide choice.
Already it has relationships with more than a dozen banks.
LendingTree also is striking alliances with online partners to position itself as a premier lender. For example, on Sept. 1 it partnered with electronic commerce site priceline.com to be the exclusive provider of mortgage loans.
Mr. York joins a growing number of traditional media and marketing executives moving to online-only companies. Priceline's Chairman-CEO Richard Braddock recently joined the company from non-executive chairman of True North Communications.
Are users ready to get loans online? Mr. York thinks so, citing an online report by Forrester Research that projects online lending will jump from $2.8 billion this year to $40 billion by 2001. "Consumers will increasingly use the Internet as a convenience and a time-saver," said Mr. York.
To promote its service, LendingTree has done mostly keyword ads on search engines, but is looking for an agency to launch a consumer and trade print campaign this fall.
Mr. York, who is commuting to Charlotte during the work week while his wife and children reside on Long Island, is getting acquainted with weather-related flight delays, including the night before he started at LendingTree.
But like other commuting executives, "If it's the right opportunity and the right company, it's kind of like, get on the plane and go," said Mr. York.
Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.