Google Inc. said it hired Ruth Porat, Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer, to succeed Patrick Pichette as its new CFO in May.
Porat, 57, will leave Morgan Stanley in April after 28 years at the firm, the New York-based company said Tuesday in a memo to employees. Jonathan Pruzan, 46, co-head of global financial institutions banking, will become Morgan Stanley’s new CFO.
Porat, one of Wall Street’s most senior female executives, pivots from a job in which she built up cash reserves for safety to one where she must figure out how to use Google’s growing cash pile. In five years as Morgan Stanley’s CFO, the Stanford University alumna has helped stabilize an investment bank that almost collapsed in 2008.
“I’m delighted to be returning to my California roots and joining Google,” Porat said in a statement released by the Mountain View, California-based Internet company. “Growing up in Silicon Valley, during my time at Morgan Stanley and as a member of Stanford’s board, I’ve had the opportunity to experience first-hand how tech companies can help people in their daily lives. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.”
Silicon Valley has tapped Wall Street bankers to help them manage the finances associated with their rapid growth. Twitter Inc. last year named Anthony Noto, 46, previously Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s co-head of technology, media, and telecommunications banking, as its CFO.
Google also has long-standing ties to Morgan Stanley, which was the lead bank on its 2004 initial public offering. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have battled in recent years for supremacy in advising on the biggest technology mergers and IPOs.
Google said earlier this month that Pichette, 51, who joined in 2008, is retiring and would remain at the world’s biggest search-engine company to assist with the management change.
“I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to make such tough choices anymore,” Pichette wrote. “I wish to transition over the coming months but only after we have found a new Goggle CFO and help him/her through an orderly transition, which will take some time.”
Porat was a technology banker during the Internet stock boom of the late 1990s and worked closely with Morgan Stanley’s star analyst, Mary Meeker. Porat later advised financial companies, which gave her a key role in navigating the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Porat advised the U.S. Treasury Department on its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rescue in September 2008. After spending a weekend trying to save Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., she was asked to help deal with the rescue of American International Group Inc., Porat said in an interview five years later.
That AIG “could vanish that quickly and the impact that could have throughout the country, and that nobody could see it coming, was just staggering,” Porat said in the 2013 interview. When Morgan Stanley was threatened, the firm survived by borrowing US$107.3 billion from the Federal Reserve in a single day, selling a 20 percent stake and becoming a bank holding company.
That experience shaped her time as Morgan Stanley’s CFO, as she worked to stabilize the firm’s funding and convince creditors it was safer than before the crisis. In the interview, Porat said Morgan Stanley had accumulated enough cash and easy-to-sell assets to survive a year of dysfunction.
“Over the many hundreds of hours we have spent working together, she has won my great affection and highest esteem,” Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman wrote in the memo. “I respect her decision that now is the right time to make a change in her career.”
At Google, Porat will oversee a burgeoning cash hoard, which increased to $67.5 billion in the fourth quarter, fueled by the company’s dominance of the online advertising market. Net income rose 41 percent to $4.76 billion.
Finance chiefs at cash-rich companies like Google have to strike a delicate balance as they seek to put tens of billions of dollars to work for shareholders in a market where regulators view large acquisitions with scrutiny. Adding to the challenge: Google holds a large portion of its cash overseas and would incur a tax hit by bringing it back to the U.S.
Porat’s move to Google also reflects the growing allure of Silicon Valley for professionals who once viewed a Wall Street investment-banking job as the pinnacle of success. More graduates are flocking to hot startups and established technology companies, while shunning financial-services firms blamed by some for the credit crisis a half-decade ago.
Google CEO Larry Page has been stepping up spending, investing in areas outside of the company’s main search-ad business, from high-speed Internet service and driverless cars to digital-payments systems and Web-linked glasses. Porat will report to Page in her new job, the company said.
“We’re tremendously fortunate to have found such a creative, experienced, and operationally strong executive,” Page, 41, said in the statement. “I look forward to learning from Ruth as we continue to innovate.”
–With assistance from Tony Robinson and Max Abelson in New York.