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Maker Studios CEO Danny Zappin Steps Down, Endemol’s Ynon Kreiz Takes Over

The leadership change comes less than a year after Maker took a $36 million investment

Ynon Kreiz is taking over Maker Studios. Kreiz, a former boss at Endemol Group, has been elevated to executive chairman at Maker Studios, as co-founder and CEO Danny Zappin plans to step aside to serve as special advisor, the company announced on Tuesday.

Maker is one of the largest and most influential networks of YouTube channels, reaching more than 30 million people and generating more than three billion views each month. Its network of thousands of channels includes those from popular YouTubers like KassemG and ShayCarl.

Maker secured a $36 million investment round in December and has moved twice in the past year, both to accomodate more staff and to expand its capacity for video production.

Zappin, once an aspiring actor and filmmaker, crafted the vision for the company, betting heavily on YouTube as the future platform for struggling creatives. Yet under his leadership the company also experienced the kinds of growing pains typical for a young company. That included a public fight between Zappin and star Ray William Johnson, who left the network last summer.

Also Read: How Maker Studios Is Turning YouTube Cynics Into Believers 

Zappin is not a seasoned administrator, one of the reasons Courtney Holt came aboard as COO in November 2011.  As the company's profile rises, investors turned to Kreiz, a well-respected executive, to lead the company into the future. Kreiz, who had served as chairman of the board at Maker since last May, was previously the chairman of the board at Endemol Group.

Here's Zappin's e-mail to staff: 

Hey Everyone,

I have some important and exciting news I want to share with all of you.

First off, I would like to thank everyone for being part of this amazing journey of building Maker Studios.  It’s been quite a ride and I feel very proud of what we’ve all accomplished together!

I founded Maker with Lisa and Ben because we were passionate about creating content and making things verses pitching and auditioning.   Youtube gave us a platform as content creators to do just that.  We were able to reach a world wide audience and actually make a living doing what we loved, being creative. 

The vision for Maker was to create a company that would provide resources, knowledge, and monetization opportunities for content creators around the world so they too could make a living doing what they love.

We have now grown from a small production studio with offices above a Campos Tacos in Venice to being a global media company with a Network of more than 50,000 individual partners in less than 2 years.  The rapid evolution of this organization has been an incredible thing to witness. 

Being the CEO of Maker Studios has been the single most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.  I’ve learned more and accomplished more than I could have ever imagined.  The amazing people I’ve shared this journey with will always be loved.  Despite all odds Lisa, Ben and I have successfully led and navigated a rapidly growing company that has become the market leader in the space, despite having very little or no business background.  No one thought it was possible.   I know I could not have done it alone.  

It is the very unique partnership between the 3 of us that made it work.  While challenging and full of complexity there is no doubt that what we have is special and rare.  The success is unquestionable.  I feel honored to work along side my cofounders Lisa and Ben.  I’m happy to be sharing this journey with them and with all of you at Maker Studios.

As we’ve grown, we’ve added many other remarkably talented people who I also feel privileged to work alongside.  From Shay, Kassem, Alex, Christina, Matt, Glasgow and Paul in the early days to our current executives Courtney, Chris, Ryan, Karen, Amy and Sam.  It’s a privilege to work with all of you.   To all my friends and family, thank you for joining me in this unique opportunity and journey.  Working along side so many people that you love has been a rewarding and unique experience that I am extremely grateful for.    Mike.D.   Without you none of this would be possible.  Thank you.

So back to the exciting news!

A little over a year ago I had the privilege of meeting Ynon Kreiz.   We both shared a great passion for Youtube and the new media space.  He was very excited about whatwere doing at Maker and believed in our vision of what it could become.  We connected immediately and developed a friendship over the next few months.   About a year ago I asked Ynon to join Maker’s board of directors as the Chairman. 

Since then Ynon has been an advisor, mentor, and sounding board for me.  We have spoken almost daily for the past year.  We could not have navigated the company through the past year without his help and support.   Not only has he helped advise me, he has also learned a lot from his relationship with, Lisa, Ben and I.   We have all grown close and have a lot of trust and mutual respect.

As we now prepare to move into the next phase of growth for Maker Studios, I felt it was the right time to make a significant transition.   As the former CEO and Chairman ofEndemol, the worlds largest independent production company, and as the co-founder and CEO of Fox kids, Ynon has the specific media exec experience that we need to take Maker to the next level.   After much thought and discussion with Ynon, my co-founders and the board, I am happy to announce that I will be stepping down as the Maker Studios CEO. Ynon, our Executive Chairman will now be taking over my responsibilities and operational oversight of Maker. 

While I won’t be responsible for day to day operations, I will remain on the board of directors and will serve in an advisor role to Ynon and the company. I will work very closely with Ynon during this transition phase to make sure everything goes smoothly.   

I love this company and all of you.  I’ve always been committed to do what I feel is best for the company and that will never change.   This transition is what is best for the company right now.  I am confident in my decision.  I’m very fortunate to have had the experience of being the CEO of Maker Studios.  I also feel lucky to now have the opportunity to hand over the keys to Ynon after a proper amount of time to build a solid relationship, trust, and mutual respect. I feel fortunate to have Ynon join the team.   I’m very excited about the future of Maker Studios.

Thank you all,


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