Jared Grusd, '00: Applying a Law School Toolkit to Digital Media

Jared Grusd
Jared Grusd, '00

In 2015, Jared Grusd, ’00, became the CEO of Huffington Post. This summer, that very big job became even bigger when his leadership portfolio expanded to include responsibility for Yahoo News and the Yahoo and AOL Internet portals, which collectively reach more than a billion people every month.

Grusd’s new role is CEO of HuffPost and Global Head of News and Information at the new business entity, Oath, which combines Verizon’s AOL and Yahoo subsidiaries. The ambitious goals set for Oath include attracting more than two billion consumers by 2020 and achieving revenues between 10 and 20 billion dollars by that same date.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the digital media business,” Grusd said. “I used to fear that news could become commoditized amid an infinite supply of information on any number of platforms. But it’s now clear that, perhaps more than ever in my lifetime, people desire and even demand help with understanding what is real and making sense of the world they live in. This is something we strive to do every day across our news platforms.”

Grusd came to Huffington Post with a striking résumé, having helped lead crucial growth initiatives at Google, AOL, and the music-streaming site Spotify. He also cofounded the very successful legal app Shake, which enables users to seamlessly create and send binding legal agreements using their mobile phones.

“I learned two fundamental lessons at the Law School,” Grusd said. “One was that the best lawyers did not view the law solely as an end unto itself but rather as a means, as a set of tools to be mastered to make the world better. This made me realize that I could aspire to do something other than practice law every day. The other was something that should have been self-evident—that basic freedoms in society, like freedom of expression, cannot be taken for granted; it requires people to carry the mantle. Freedom of expression is the hallmark of a healthy society, and I have devoted my career to providing the world with access to information, music, culture, and news.”

He credits his mother with raising him to be receptive to the lessons he learned at the Law School: “She grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era, and then she uprooted her whole life and career to come to the US and start anew, because she wanted to live in a country that provided freedom and opportunity for me and my brothers. She worked six days a week and made countless sacrifices to enable me to pursue my ambitions. She strongly encouraged me to go to the University of Chicago Law School, which she correctly saw as the best preparation I could receive for anything I wanted to do. From an early age, she made me realize how fortunate I was to have something called opportunity, and she did her best to make sure I did not squander it. It’s no surprise she measures my success not in terms of professional achievement but in acts of gratitude.” 

In addition to his substantial job responsibilities, Grusd teaches a course on technology and media strategy at Columbia Business School. He first taught the course as a small seminar; it now attracts more than a hundred students. He also mentors up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs, is an angel investor in several start-ups, serves on the board of the innovative education-technology company Newsela, has competed in marathons and Ironman triathlons, and is a devoted father to his three daughters.

Grusd said that while he once set milestones for career goals he wanted to reach, he views things differently now: “You can’t perfectly architect your career; you have to find purpose and meaning in the journey, being as engaged and passionate as you can about whatever you’re doing. My mother taught me—and she still reminds me in texts practically every day—that there are three core qualities that will ultimately determine the quality of your life: integrity, gratitude, and contribution to the community. As with so much else, I am sure that she is right about that, and those are qualities that we can all continue to work on.”