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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

CFO Standouts Report Improving 2022

Six months ago, the Business Journal held its 14th annual CFO of the Year Awards, honoring five local executives. The Business Journal caught up with the executives to see how they’ve managed. The Business Journal’s next CFO awards ceremony is scheduled for May 5th at the Irvine Marriott. 

Nonprofit OCCF Reports Contributions Booming

In 2021, the Orange County Community Foundation was the largest nonprofit in Orange County as its annual revenue increased 64% to $198.3 million for the fiscal year ended June 30.

For the first nine months this fiscal year, contributions have already exceeded its $106 million in the prior year. To top it off, investment performance was up 15% in 2021.

“Fiscal 2022 is turning into a very strong year,” said Tracy Branson, the Business Journal’s CFO of the Year in the nonprofit sector.

Branson is responsible for managing the accounting of the foundation’s assets, which total more than $514 million. She oversees the foundation’s management and financial reporting, including quarterly statements for donor-advised funds.

“We are working on a major technology transformation and website overhaul that will allow us to be of better service to donors, nonprofits and the Orange County community,” she told the Business Journal.

“We also continue to focus on our workforce development efforts, especially helping minority-owned small businesses to thrive. And of course, we’ve been working with our donors over recent weeks who want to help with the significant needs in Ukraine.”

The full OCCF team returned to the office on Feb. 28.

“It is great to feel the energy of being back together!” she said.

It also welcomed three new board members at our March Board meeting: Joanna Kong of the Sun Family Foundation—which last month announced a $50 million donation to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian for its Irvine expansion—Bob Whalen of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, and Kristen Monson from Pimco (retired).

On a personal note, Branson is expecting two new grandchildren in August, raising the total to five.

—Peter J. Brennan

Kerns Leaves Landmark for Startup Network

Almost immediately after scoring the Business Journal’s CFO of the Year Award in the private sector category for his successful stint at Landmark Health, Brandon Kerns moved on to a new company.

Between 2018 and 2021, Kerns served as CFO for Huntington Beach-based Landmark Health, the nation’s largest provider of home-based healthcare for chronically ill patients.

“We’re enabling an amazing mission of providing medicine to a vulnerable population,” Kerns told the Business Journal last October. “I believe you do your best work when you feel connected to the mission of your company.”

During those three years, he helped the company’s revenue skyrocket by 500% and its employee headcount nearly double.

The Surf City company last year was acquired by Optum, a part of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH), in a deal industry reports estimated around $3 billion.

Prior to Landmark Health, Kerns was vice president at global private equity firm General Atlantic and served as an investment banking analyst for Morgan Stanley. He completed his bachelor’s in economics and finance at Cornell University and his MBA at Stanford University.

In October, Kerns took on the roles of president and CFO at a newly formed healthcare-focused venture capital firm, Russell Street Ventures (RSV), in Nashville, Tenn.

RSV, established in 2021, serves the nation’s vulnerable and underserved patients through innovative healthcare companies.

Kerns is also using his finance and actuarial expertise as CFO for RSV’s first two startups: healthcare technology company CareBridge and rural community healthcare provider Main Street Health.

“CareBridge’s full-risk model for managing Medicaid patients and dual eligibles receiving home and community-based services is one of the most innovative models I have seen,” Kerns said in a statement from CareBridge. “I am thrilled to help scale CareBridge’s services to patients across the country.”

—Audrey Kemp

Vizio Turns to Advertising for Sales Bump

Vizio Holding Corp. (NYSE: VZIO) CFO Adam Townsend is seeing firsthand the worldwide effects of trade clogging the ports.

The Irvine-based smart TV and soundbar maker and advertising company on March 3 reported 2021 revenue from its devices fell 4% to $1.8 billion in 2021.

“Market conditions remained challenging during the [fourth] quarter and our team worked diligently to improve channel inventories,” Townsend, the Business Journal’s CFO of the Year Award winner in the public company category, told analysts in a recent conference call.

“Their work throughout the [fourth] quarter put us in a much stronger position coming into Q1 [2022], which will now allow us to be more aggressive and increase our competitiveness going forward.”

Overall, 2021 sales grew 4% to $2.1 billion at Vizio, which went public a little more than a year ago.

The company’s growth was driven by its newest division that focuses on advertising, Platform+, which more than doubled its revenue to $308 million.

Townsend attributed last year’s Platform+ revenue growth to the company’s added advertising space and sponsorship opportunities along with its increased ad buyers.

The company continues to aggressively slash prices on its televisions.

After Vizio lowered the price on its 50-inch V-Series to $299 in early February, the smart TV topped the charts for two weeks as the number one selling 50-inch TV in the U.S.

On top of moving units through retail promotions, the company also expects growth in non-advertising revenue this year, particularly in its largest non-advertising revenue source, data licensing.

“The market is hungry for our data, and we are in a great position to serve,” Townsend told analysts.

“We will continue to invest in additional platform enhancements for viewers, advertisers and content partners alike … We expect to develop new monetizable capabilities and deploy technologies to drive greater efficiencies.”

After Vizio’s 2021 fourth-quarter earnings call, Needham maintained the company’s buy rating and lowered its target price from $20 to $16.

At press time, the company’s shares hovered around $9.14 and a $1.8 billion market cap. Shares for the company are off about 50% from its IPO last March.

—Kaitlin Aquino

Henry Helps Tilly’s Set Sales, Profit Records

Mike Henry, last year’s winner of the Business Journal’s CFO Lifetime Achievement Award, helped Tilly’s Inc. (NYSE: TLYS) set all sorts of sales record in 2021.

Each quarter of 2021 set records for sales and operating income. Sales in 2021 boomed 46% to $775.7 million and operating income climbed to $87.6 million. The best was saved for the last quarter.

“The fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 produced our best fourth-quarter earnings per share in our public company history and fiscal 2021 as a whole, produced a company record earnings per share of $2.06, far surpassing any previous fiscal year,” Henry told analysts on a March 10 conference call when announcing results.

Alas, the shares fell 24% in the subsequent trading session as the company forecast first quarter revenue and profit lower than analysts’ consensus estimates (see story, page 3). The young men and women’s casual apparel retailer at press time had a market cap around $300 million.

With mandates and occupancy limits lifting, the company saw consumer behavior shift towards shopping in person as stores were favored over e-commerce.

With greater store traffic, Tilly’s CFO praised the retailer’s merchant teams for keeping up with inventory challenges.

“Our merchant teams have jumped through dozens of hoops to continually adjust our inventory levels relative to what we expect,” Henry said.

Tilly’s executives set out to further develop the retailer’s e-commerce business entering the second year of the pandemic, expecting growth at a decent pace. Tilly’s revamped its mobile app to accommodate its rewards program and improve navigation last November and plans to release more updates to its online shop in the second quarter of 2022.

Although e-commerce sales in 2021 decreased 4.3% to $166 million, the apparel company has seen an overall increase of about 55% in its e-commerce segment compared to pre-pandemic 2019, Henry told the Business Journal.

—Emily Santiago-Molina

Amuchie Reaches for the Stars, Literally

Floyd Amuchie’s now Tustin-based company, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., is reaching for the stars, and this time it’s not corpspeak cliché but rather a reality.

Amuchie, vice president and corporate controller, says the space tourism company is “progressing on our plans for growth” as it gets ready for paying passengers later this year (see story, page 1).

“We have plans to hire a lot of engineers in the Tustin area and plans to expand elsewhere,” he told the Business Journal on March 28. “Everything’s going according to plan right now.”

Virgin Galactic recently shifted its headquarters from New Mexico to Tustin’s 1700 Flight Way, boosting the prominence of the local OC office where Amuchie works. The facility houses management, research, design, development, marketing, finance and other administrative functions.

While the headquarters has come to Orange County, Virgin Galactic says that its “operational headquarters” will stay at Spaceport America in the vast expanses of New Mexico.  

The Richard Branson-backed firm went public via a reverse merger in 2019. It now sports a market valuation around $2.8 billion.

While his job primarily focuses on numbers and money to keep the business growing, Amuchie, who won the Business Journal’s Rising Star award, would like to have his own spaceflight “sometime soon.”

“We have about 700-plus future astronauts that are at the head of the line,” he says, as he looks forward to being part of an “expanded list of people that get to sign up to go to space.”  

—Kevin Costelloe

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