Last week, 31-year-old Chelsea Clinton joined the board of internet giant IAC/InterActive Corp, the parent of Match.com and CitySearch. This has sparked a lot of interest from right-leaning op-ed columnists, bloggers and tweeters, who have been quick to throw up their collective hands in horror. Her appointment is easy prey to accusations of cosiness: Barry Diller, high-profile media mogul and IAC senior executive, is known to have supported both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s independent runs for the US presidency.
So is Chelsea Clinton’s selection yet another example of a board appointment made in an exclusive clubhouse or across a private dining table? On the other hand, could this move be described as rather smart?
After all, Chelsea Clinton has earned degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Columbia and is currently reading for a doctorate at New York University. She has also worked at McKinsey Consulting and the investment firm Avenue Capital Group. By any standard, she is no intellectual slouch.
Clinton is not the only glitter in Barry Diller’s boardroom. She will join Michael Eisner, one-time chief executive of Walt Disney, and Richard Zannino, ex-chief executive of Dow Jones.
So, is it her brains IAC were drawn to or her Rolodex? I wonder if actually, IAC were after something that many have seen as a major weakness – namely Chelsea Clinton’s relative youth. Today’s companies would do well to look at increasing the range of perspectives on their boards by including younger non-executives. Disrupting traditional ways of thinking by incorporating not just a clever and well-connected woman on the board, but also somebody who is less than half the age of the average board director may just be Barry Diller’s best move yet.