Dennis Yeoh and Jerry Huang, center, with other from nearly 20-person in-house team
An IPO in the middle of a pandemic, a doubling of the employee headcount, contracts, litigation and navigating ever-changing regulatory waters.
Vizio Holding Corp.’s (NYSE: VZIO) legal team has been busy the past two years, to put it mildly.
Growth is happening quickly for Irvine-based Vizio, pressing on the legal team to not only balance the regular work of lease and vendor contracts, but also the company’s ballooning Platform+ advertising business, the fastest-growing division that’s transforming the company from not just a TV and soundbar maker, but digital advertising house in the streaming age.
Doing that in an unprecedented environment for business operations added an additional layer of complexity, but also a point of pride.
“For me, it’s seeing the legal team really tackle the issues and the new issues, the new matters, that have come up in the last two years,” Deputy General Counsel Dennis Yeoh said of what he finds to be the most rewarding aspect of his job.
The roughly 20-person legal team’s work, which is supported by outside counsel across nearly a dozen law firms, was recognized with the In-House Legal Team Award during the Business Journal’s General Counsel of the Year Awards event held Nov. 18 at the Irvine Marriott.
Vizio, which went public in March and had a recent market cap of $3.7 billion, is in the midst of a major pivot.
It’s becoming a provider of data and advertising, as content makers and marketers look for more targeted ways to reach specific consumers watching television.
The company’s Platform+ business generated revenue in the September quarter of $85.9 million, a boost of 134% from the prior year, making it Vizio’s fastest-growing line of business.
Meanwhile, the division’s gross profits increased 88% to $57.3 million.
That the team is affecting this pivot in the midst of challenging circumstances is noteworthy.
“To be relatively remote and trying to grow at the same time, was really difficult,” said General Counsel Jerry Huang.
Added Yeoh: “The one area that I’m a little more cognizant of is really ensuring the legal team hires, I call them the COVID hires, but even the rest of the Vizio workforce, that they are really engaged with the organization because onboarding in this pandemic remotely, it’s certainly less than ideal.”
The relentless uncertainty of shifting COVID requirements across counties or the country tested the legal team from the onset.
“Early on in the pandemic we had to face a decision on the company, whether we shut down or do we qualify as an essential business, and Vizio is an essential business based on many different criteria,” Huang said.
The company’s devices allowed people to work from home and its SmartCast operating system plants it in the communications industry, Huang pointed out.
As a result, Vizio never shut down. In fact, early on into the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contacted Vizio to see if its app could be added to the SmartCast platform so users could access the latest news on the pandemic.
The app was added within 48 hours.
“We cut through all the requirements and went straight to facilitate the [app’s] onboarding process,” Huang said.
As the pandemic continued, how to cross collaborate and work together was tested further in Vizio’s move to go public, which occurred in March of this year. The firm raised some $260 million in proceeds from the offering.
“I think that process really opened our eyes on the benefits of modern-day communication, of Zoom and the virtual meetings and resulting efficiencies,” Huang said.
Both Huang and Yeoh are veterans at Vizio, and some of the same reasons that brought them to the company are also what have kept them there.
Huang is now counting 13 years at the business, while Yeoh has been at the company for a little over nine years. Both cite a startup mentality within the corporate culture for maintaining their interest in the work.
“Vizio does continue to innovate,” Yeoh said. “There are always interesting things that crop up from a business perspective that leads into the legal support perspective that keeps me interested from a professional development perspective. So, it’s never really a dull moment because Vizio is always innovating.”
Both also cited founder and CEO William Wang’s leadership in talking about the culture of innovation at the company.
“What’s really special and unique about Vizio is that we never lost that entrepreneurially, startup spirit,” Huang said. “And it is supported by a very solid underpinning of a strong foundation as we continue to mature in all facets of our practices.”