Gannett just announced that its top executive in Phoenix, Robert Dickey (left), has been named president of U.S. Community Publishing, formerly called the Newspaper Division -- and currently led by the retiring Sue Clark-Johnson.
The division controls most of Gannett's newspapers, produces most of the company's revenue -- and faces the most challenges in terms of advertising losses. It also employs the vast majority of Gannett's nearly 50,000 workers. Gannett, which owns USA Today and 84 other dailies, is the nation's biggest newspaper publisher.
My immediate reaction: As we'd say in Arkansas, the board of directors has good ol' boyed this one -- big time. Directors could have done something bold, reaching outside the company for an energetic change-maker, someone with a strong digital background. But they didn't. Dickey's elevation also makes him a strong candidate to replace Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow.
The questions: What other shoes are about to drop, as the board concludes its two-day meeting? Could a spin-off of the digital properties be announced, after stock markets close at 4 p.m. ET?
Dickey, 50, was a senior group president of Gannett's Pacific Group and chairman of Phoenix Newspapers, which publishes The Arizona Republic, GCI's No. 2 circulation newspaper, after USA Today.
Gannett also said the 61-year-old Clark-Johnson (left), has been named chair of U.S. Community Publishing. It's unclear from the company's statement whether she will stay in that new job after her scheduled retirement in May. When her retirement was announced on Jan. 10, I wondered whether Dickey would replace her -- though I had my doubts. Turns out, I was right.
GCI says U.S. Community Publishing includes Gannett's daily community newspapers, more than 100 websites and hundreds of non-daily publications. "The new name better reflects the division's responsibilities," the company says.
So far, reaction on Wall Street is muted. Late in the day, shares continue to trade lower, when most newspaper stocks are weak.
Dickey said in the announcement: "My goal is to move forward rapidly on our strategy to become the leading news and information provider in our communities -- a strategy that is showing results for our consumers and advertisers. I'm thrilled to continue this important work, on a new level and with great focus."
I'll be updating all day.
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