January 31, 2023

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Heartbeat expands senior executive team with key hire of Kevin Hart

3 min read

Heartbeat, Kevin Hart’s multiplatform media and entertainment company, has hired four senior execs to build its leadership team across divisions.

Joining the company are former ATTN: executives Sarah Abdullahi as senior VP of people and culture; NBCUniversal alum Annie Balagot as senior VP of global media; Neil Wright, who comes from BuzzFeed’s Complex Network, as VP of Live and Experiential; and industry veteran Naman Jones as VP of Brand Partnerships.

The company promoted Tina Maher to SVP of brand and franchise management; He previously served as VP, Brand Partnerships and Monetization.

Heartbeat currently has more than 70 projects in development or production and is gearing up to launch a series of new live comedy experiences in 2023. The company said the new hires will accelerate growth across the company’s three divisions: Heartbeat Studios, which finances, develops and produces content; Heartbeat Media, which handles events and distribution deals; and Pulse, a branded-content and entertainment studio and consultancy.

“As we build the future of comedy entertainment, the leadership infrastructure we have in place enables us to grow from within,” Heartbeat CEO Ty Randolph said in a statement.

“With Sarah Abdullahi leading our entire employee lifecycle, we have the best to bring our projects to life in every aspect,” continued Randolph. “I am inspired by the breadth of experience and expertise Annie Balagot, Neil Wright and Naman Jones bring to the team as we continue to scale the business and meet our content and experience needs. We are proud to further our commitment to Tina Maher, who has been instrumental in expanding Heartbeat’s brand partnership.”

Abdullahi most recently served as VP of People Operations at ATTN: which was acquired by Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ Candle Media last year. ATTN: Prior to that, he held the role of Senior Director at Nativo, an at-tech company. Abdullahi reports to Randolph.

Balagot spent more than 10 years at NBCUniversal, previously overseeing the distribution of USA, Bravo, CNBC, E!, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, Universo, Oxygen, Syfy, Golf Channel, Universal Kids, network-owned NBC and Telemundo stations, NBCU FAST. did Channels and Peacock across traditional and streaming platforms. In his new post at Heartbeat, he will oversee media strategy and distribution, including distribution expansion for LOL! Network across all platforms worldwide. Balagot will report to Heartbeat President and Chief Distribution Officer Jeff Clanagan.

Wright, who joins Heartbeat to oversee live events and experiences, also reports to Clanagan. Wright comes from Complex Networks, where he created and developed the company’s annual cultural tentpole event ComplexCon, and developed the first Metaverse platform from publisher, Complexland. Prior to joining Complex In-House, Wright worked for Partners in Reed Exhibitions to create and launch ComplexCon in 2016. He previously spent 10 years at retailer PacSun as director of marketing, in-store experience and events.

Jones has worked for over 20 years in digital sales at Urban One (formally Radio One), BET, Twitter, OG Media and iHeartMedia. At Heartbeat, he is tasked with developing and expanding the company’s East Coast brand partnerships, reporting to Stephen Loguidis, SVP and head of partnerships and advertising.

Maher joined the company in 2017 to oversee production and branded partnerships for the series, including the hit series “Cold as Ball,” starring Kevin Hart, which reached 1 billion views over five seasons and a contract renewal with Old Spice. In his new role, he will oversee and implement monetization, growth and partnership strategies for Heartbeat’s owned and operated brands and franchises (such as Laugh Out Loud, Women Right Now and Cold as Ball). Prior to Heartbeat, he worked at companies including DeviantArt, Google, NBA and Leaf Group.

Heartbeat’s latest hires come on the heels of other key appointments over the past year. Among them Brian C. Price includes the promotion of Candice Williamson, SVP, head of branded content and creative partnerships and EVP/general counsel, as well as Mike Stein to EVP, head of television and audio.

The company announced a $100 million capital raise in April 2022 from Abri Partners, led by Heartbeat’s Randolph. Hartbeat has signed strategic partnerships with streaming services, companies and organizations including NBCU’s Peacock, Netflix, SiriusXM, Audible, Simon & Schuster, Live Nation, Roku, Pluto, Apple TV+, HBO Max and the Sundance Institute.

Pictured above (l. to r.): Sara Abdullahi, Annie Balagot, Neil Wright, Naman Jones, Tina Maher

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