Columbus Business First: Publicly traded Alliance Data Systems brings its HQ to Columbus, names new CEO

By Carrie Ghose

Alliance Data Systems Corp. has switched its headquarters to Columbus and promoted Melisa Miller to CEO after eight years as CEO of its credit card services business based here.

Tim King also was promoted last week to CFO after seven years running finances for card services in Columbus.

Operations continue at the former base in Plano, Texas, but the head office change reflects both executive leadership and the greater importance of the credit division after the sale of an email marketing arm.

"Because of its unique industry position, card services has historically experienced high growth rates and significant returns on equity," Chairman Rob Minicucci said in a statement. "The company's increased focus on this attractive segment will position Alliance Data to excel during the next decade, as it has in the past. Elevating these (Columbus) leaders to run the Alliance Data enterprise makes perfect sense."

Card services represented 59% of Alliance Data's $7.9 billion revenue last year – and its $4.6 billion chunk of that was already nearing the division's goal to double to $5 billion in 2020 from 2015. The Columbus operation runs the branded credit card business that includes more than 51 million cardholders across more than 150 brands, including Victoria’s Secret, Bed Bath & Beyond and Toyota/Lexus.

This April Alliance Data agreed to sell its $2 billion Epsilon division for net proceeds of $3.5 billion.

"Card services has long been the largest part of Alliance Data's business, and following the expected sale of Epsilon, its relative contribution will be even greater," Minicucci said.

With the Epsilon results left out, the card services division grew 84% of the remaining company's $1.38 billion revenue in the first quarter. The other division based in Texas runs brand loyalty programs such as airline miles.

Miller succeeded past CEO Ed Heffernan last week and also replaced him on the board in a planned succession after the anticipated Epsilon deal, the company said in a release.

Previous CFO Charles Horn had announced his retirement last July. He will serve as interim vice chairman to oversee the Epsilon transition.

Also, Joseph Motes has been promoted to chief administrative officer, while keeping his role as general counsel. He has been stationed in Plano; it's not yet clear if he moves to Columbus.

The headquarters is now in a $91.5 million office complex south of Easton Town Center that opened in 2017, with three buildings spanning 550,000 square feet.

Alliance Data has 4,500 Central Ohio employees, adding more than 1,500 since 2010. Besides Easton, it has a processing center in Reynoldsburg and customer service centers in Westerville and Whitehall.

Heffernan's total compensation was $9.98 million in 2018, according to the company proxy. The company said Friday it paid him $3.26 million cash upon retirement.

Miller's 2018 compensation was $3.65 million, the highest of the four executive vice presidents at the time. She achieved the highest weighted payout for non-equity performance compensation, 86%, based on card services' financial performance on its goals for the year.

Alliance Data was created in 1996 when Columbus' L Brands Inc., then called Limited Brands, merged its credit-card operation with its counterpart at J.C. Penney Company Inc. The company went public in 2001, and Limited sold its remaining 20% stake in 2003.

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