The announcement, made moments ago, puts CFO Gracia Martore (left) more firmly in position to succeed Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow, 55, the company's top executive since July 2005. The news came as Gannett reported fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded expectations.
But investors nonetheless hammered Gannett shares. GCI closed this afternoon at $15.02 a share, down $1.13, or 7%, according to Google Finance. It had been down nearly 13% earlier in the day. Barrington Research analyst James Goss told Reuters news service that he was impressed by the company's financial results and surprised at the stock decline. He suggested it could be a reaction to the stock's run-up since last spring, Reuters said.
In addition to her new duties as the company's No. 2 executive, Martore retains the CFO post until her replacement is appointed, and she will continue reporting to Dubow (left). In her new role, Martore will handle Gannett's day-to-day operations, while Dubow focuses on longer-term strategy. In addition to being chairman and CEO, Dubow held the president's title; the chief operating officer's job has been vacant for a number of years.
In 2008, the most recent year available, Martore was paid about $1.4 million, including a $700,000 base salary plus a $300,000 cash bonus, according to the last proxy report to stockholders. Annual pay for Gannett's five highest-compensated officers in 2009 likely will be disclosed in mid-March.
Martore led layoffs, other cuts
GCI did not provide Martore's age in today's announcement. Forbes says she's 57. She has been with the company since 1985, and was named the top finance executive in 2003. In that role, she has been the chief architect of a series of cost-cutting campaigns that included broad layoffs last year and in 2008, as well as the consolidation of printing, accounting and other functions at central hubs across the nation. Martore's influence in recent years has been so great that some observers have regarded her as Gannett's de facto CEO.
There had been speculation in recent days that an executive shake-up was in the works because of Dubow's health problems; he took a medical leave of absence from June to October after receiving back surgery. During that period, Martore took Gannett's top reins. Her temporary appointment to that post, at a time of great challenges for GCI, suggested the board of directors saw her as the next likely executive to succeed Dubow once he leaves the 104-year-old company.
Other CEO contenders
"Craig and Gracia have been exceptional leaders for Gannett and work in tandem as an outstanding team,” Karen Hastie Williams, Gannett’s presiding board member, said in GCI's statement.
To be certain, my succession scenario isn't carved in stone. The board could consider other internal candidates, including Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis (left); he has been groomed for increasing leadership roles since he was appointed to the top digital job in January 2008.
Martore's elevation comes as Gannett continues wrestling with turmoil in the digital transformation of the newspaper and television industries. Based in the Washington suburb of McLean, Va., the company is the nation's biggest publisher of newspapers, with 84 dailies in the U.S., including USA Today, and 17 dailies in the United Kingdom's Newsquest division. In the U.S., it owns 23 television stations, plus the top jobs site, CareerBuilder, as well as hundreds of other media properties. Its official worldwide employment is 41,500. Layoffs over the past year will likely show the workforce has fallen below that mark, when new figures are released in the weeks ahead.
Related: In a letter to the Romenesko blog, former New York Times tax beat reporter David Cay Johnston raises interesting questions about Gannett's accounting in today's earnings release. Plus: The Wall Street Journal's quarterly earnings story
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