Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some curious timing in NYT Co. CEO's retirement

Janet Robinson said unexpectedly today that she's stepping down at the end of the month as chief executive officer of the New York Times Co., a position she's held since 2004 during a period of enormous challenges for the publisher of one of the world's best newspapers.

The company said it would begin a search for her replacement. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. -- whose family controls the company -- will serve as interim CEO until Robinson's replacement is found.

The timing of her exit, at age 61, is curious, however.

Why announce it just two weeks before the effective date -- leaving such little time to find a replacement, that Sulzberger must fill the role of interim?

It makes clear there's been no CEO succession plan. Otherwise, current stories about the management change would quote analysts saying Person X is the likely successor.

[Updated at 11:34 a.m. ET Dec. 16.] In a new story this morning, the company's flagship New York Times reported: "Several analysts criticized the timing of Robinson’s departure, as she leaves with no obvious successor. 'You have to give them a demerit for not having a succession plan in place,' said Alan Mutter, a journalism lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and a former newspaper editor."

Writing about Robinson's self-described "retirement," the NYT said in this story that the company "could look to the technology sector for a new chief executive as its businesses shift to online formats."

Sulzberger family doubts?
The Wall Street Journal, in its account, said: "The company's struggles during the worst of the downturn had prompted some members of the Sulzberger family to question whether Robinson was the right person to guide the company in a digital world, according to people briefed on the family's thinking."

Robinson will serve as a consultant for one year, making $4.5 million, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Today's announcement comes two months after Gannett Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow quit for medical reasons, and was replaced by the company's No. 2 executive, Gracia Martore.

In addition to the NYT, The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, the NYT Co. owns 15 daily newspapers from California to Florida, and websites including Last year, the company reported $2.4 billion in revenue. GCI had $5.4 billion in revenue from nearly 100 dailies in the U.S. and the U.K., plus 23 TV stations and other media properties.


  1. This is an abrupt resignation. It doesn't necessarily demonstrate the lack of a CEO succession plan - it could just be that the plan was to go outside the company for the next CEO instead of growing one inside.

  2. Comparing this woman to Craig dubow is like comparing Einstein to the village. Well, you know.

    At least Sulzberger knows the business. Gracia knows how to cut but nothing about the editorial product other than there is still too much fat in the organization. Therein lies the problem with the brand. You can't give readers smoke and mirrors and stories done by fresh faced college grads and expect to compete as a major player in the media business.

    All the consultants and passion topic mandates in the world won't change that.

  3. 8:55 so tell me again why NYT stick is down 27% if they are so brilliant? Please enlighten us

  4. It could have nothing to do with business. Perhaps she or someone she loves is seriously ill.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. 8:04 But a CEO succession plan doesn't necessarily mean one involving an internal candidate.

    I meant that the company had not lined up a new CEO to replace Robinson before she announced her planned departure.

    Today's announcement could have been: Robinson plans to retire at the end of the month, and will be replaced by XXXX, whose hiring the board of directors approved today.

  7. If she is 61 in that photo then I just fell off a turnip truck.

  8. Oy. This reminds me that I'm way overdue for updating my photo in the green rail.

  9. 9:29 even Martore will admit NYT is the top newspaper in the country from an editorial standpoint.

    Their finances need help but you can't dump on their quality.

    Unless of course you are a bean counter, with no understanding of the importance of credible news sources in our society.

  10. Poor, poor Maryam Banikarim. If only she had been a little more patient, not so desperate to find a new job after getting the boot, a bit more smarter than buying into Martore's bullshit. Maryam might have had a shot at the big time.

  11. JR has been making more than the Gannett honcho for years. That's why their finances are so damn good. As a result, she earned the $4.5mill. Give it a break already.


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