Wells has served as Netflix’s CFO since 2010, during a transformative time for the streaming service that has emerged as an entertainment powerhouse. Wells says he intends to stay until his successor takes the role to ensure a smooth transition, then will focus on philanthropy.
“After discussing my desire to make a change with Reed [Hastings, CEO], we agreed that with Netflix’s strong financial position and exciting growth plans, this is the right time for us to help identify the next financial leader for the company,” Wells said in a statement.
During his tenure at Netflix, Wells has overseen a rise in content spending, with programming costs projected to reach $12 billion this year, according to some estimates. That spending spree, which included costly multi-year deals with TV content creators such as Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, has helped attract subscribers around the world. But some Wall Street investors worry about the rate of the company’s cash burn.
“These deals are going to be rarer than you might think. Not everybody gets one. You have to have that track record of being a prolific producer,” Wells said in remarks earlier this year at the Morgan Stanley media and telecom conference in San Francisco. “Like Shonda Rhimes, we were pleased with the type of content she creates in terms of being popular globally, not just in the U.S. He creates a lot of customer joy, as we like to say.”
Prior to being named Netflix’s chief financial officer in 2010, Wells served in several roles, most recently as VP of financial planning and analysis. From July 2015 to July 2017, he was based in the Netherlands, charged with building up Netflix’s European operations.
“David has been a valuable partner to Netflix and to me. He skillfully managed our finances during a phase of dramatic growth that has allowed us to create and bring amazing entertainment to our members all over the world while also delivering outstanding returns to our investors,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him during the transition as we identify a new CFO who will help us continue to pursue our ambitious goals.”
Investors seemed none too phased by the announcement. Netflix’s stock was trading at $344.01, down about $2 from the day’s opening.