Friday, June 27, 2008

It takes a village (of CEOs) to lead a company astray

[CEOs-a-go-gone: top row: Frank Gannett, Paul Miller, Al Neuharth; bottom: John Curley, Doug McCorkindale, Craig Dubow]

As Gannett edges closer to oblivion, it's tempting to heap all the blame on Craig Dubow, CEO since July 2005. But he had five predecessors, starting with Frank Gannett himself, who co-founded the company in 1906.

Two former CEOs stand out in my mind, because they ran Gannett during a time when the Internet rose as the company's biggest threat. John Curley was CEO from 1986 to 2000; the Web emerged as a viable commercial entity about 1995, with the launch of Netscape. Doug McCorkindale, CEO from 2000 to 2005, might have pushed for a massive investment in R&D, leveraging all the cheap technology talent available after the 2001 tech bust. Yet, we saw none of that.
Was Dubow simply the poor sucker left standing when the music stopped? Post your reply in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Other CEO terms: Frank Gannett, 1906-57; Paul Miller, 1957-73; Al Neuharth, 1973-86]


  1. Detroit also won a handful of local Emmy awards for their multimedia projects and video. They're consistently doing outstanding work. I wish all Gannett papers were given proportionally equal resources to excel in the types of quality journalism the Free Press does.

    Hell... with all of those buyouts on the way, who knows how long Detroit will be able to hold on to those resources.

    Damn shame...

  2. Whoops, sorry Jim! meant to put that on the Detroit post... delete these at your discretion. My bad.

  3. 900 newspaper jobs lost this week. The link below details the cuts and provides dead-on commentary, including: "... the entire industry is in freefall and needs to change radically. And that starts with radical changes in business management. That's where the cuts should be occurring these days, not in the rank and file.

  4. While we lose our jobs, Google adds an employee concierge:

  5. The demise has been speculated upon for many years. The profit motive was not meant to generate the same windfalls as the dot coms.
    The pace of change was thwarted. The old white-male generational mindset never changed. There rarely was cooperation and each newspaper chose to beat each other up to garner competitive advantage.
    The arrogance killed them. And then priced themselves out of business. They needed a young stud with vision and instead got a Wharton, Yale type in McCorky. And they rarely spent the dollars on marketing, as they proposed to the world. And then operating talent dried up. The opportunity came and was lost.

  6. Best CEO?

    Easy: Al Neuharth.

    He would have done what Murdoch is doing -- believe in the product, expand the product, grow the product. Neuharth's weakness is that he was surrounded by fearful sycophants, many fearful of Al rather than using Al's energy to move the company into the digital realm when needed.

    Biggest non-event CEO? John Curley. Wasted years. Completely wasted at a time when the digital opportunity was there for the taking.

    Most professional CEO: Doug McCorkingdale. Again, if company execs weren't so terrified all the time, he could have taken the company higher. Instead, another cult grew with everyone too scared to make a move.

    Worst CEO: Do I have to say his name?

  7. It would not have mattered at all.
    The industry reputation was soiled.
    The local community knew what corporate control would do to their newspapers. The largest metro's are suffering as bad as Gannett. They lacked the ability to talk with one another in concert and build a solid future.

    Curley and McCorky tolerated Watson and the Evil Empire. About twenty years was lost. And some of those scourges are still publishers today.

    The rank and file was never appreciated and valued.

  8. Neuharth the worst for his insane and height-compensating imperial excess...
    I'm just worried sick, though, about about the crap Gannett art collection...Or, has that stuff vanished?

  9. Having been around from the Paul Miller era through the beginning of Dubow's reign I have to think that Neuharth set the table for the long term problems. He was the one who turned Gannett newspapers into profit machines at any cost. Purchased most of the papers and then started draining them. If you've been around long enough you know that we never had a down quarter year over year from 1969 (I think) when the company went public through the end of the Neuharth tyranny. The slash and burn make budget at any cost culture came from him.The abuse of local OC members was common during the feared "Onsites". That's why we never had a culture of innovation and R&D was usually limited to capital projects that would yield an ROI of 15% or more. It might seem like an eternity ago but at one time we were vying for the number 1 industry for return on sales. By the time Neuharth retired the culture at corporate was so "wall street" that only quarterly numbers and stock price mattered. The model was workable as long as the media landscape stayed the same and we had local monopolies or something approaching that. Mc Corkindale would be next on my list because it was under him that the CEO succession was totally botched. You'll remember he had to stay past the normal retirement date when no successor was available. Dubow resulted from the botched succession plan.The mess you have at corporate with the CEO who is lacking and a CFO who never spent a day working in the real newspaper or media world is because of botched succession planning.
    But Neuharth is still number one on my list. I could go on and on about Neuharth and his Roman Emperor like lifestyle (Think Caliglua)his women,airplanes, bus capade, jetcapade, corporate move from Rochester and the great cash sucking machine that became USAT. And best of all lets not forget that he highjacked the Gannett Foundation and turned it into his own personal not-for -profit fiefdom for his own self agrandizement.

  10. Check out the front of The Desert Sun

    New publisher announcement!

  11. Breaking news: Denise Ivey stepping down as Louisville Courier-Journal publisher. Replacement to be named within 60 days.

  12. Breaking news II: Barbara Henry also is stepping down at the Indy Star. In an Email she said she's decided to retire Aug. 1 after 34 years with Gannett. No word on who will replace Barbara in Indianapolis.

  13. Ramhoff replaces Krans in Palm Springs:

    Richard A. Ramhoff, a veteran journalist and the publisher of the Lansing State Journal in Michigan, today was announced as The Desert Sun’s new publisher, replacing Michelle Krans.

    Krans, The Desert Sun’s president and publisher since 2005 and a group vice president in the Pacific Group of Gannett’s Newspaper Division, has been promoted to senior vice president of strategy and development at the company’s headquarters in McLean, Va.

    She will serve on the corporate staff of Bob Dickey, president of Gannett U.S. Community Publishing. Dickey spent 12 years as publisher of The Desert Sun before being promoted senior group president of Gannett Co. Inc.'s Pacific Newspaper Group and chairman of The Arizona Republic. Krans succeeded him.

    Ramhoff was introduced to Desert Sun employees this morning. Ramhoff began as a reporter in Illinois at the Rockford Register Star in 1989, moving into assistant city editor, business editor and online manager positions through 2000, when he was named director/Online Services for Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers.

  14. Here's the full official Gannett release:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, June 27, 2008

    Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing Division Reorganized; Executives Named

    McLEAN, VA – Gannett today announced a reorganization of its U.S. Community Publishing division, several executive appointments and two retirements:

    Five regional groups become four groups: East, South, Interstate and West.

    • East will continue to be headed by Senior Group President W. Curtis Riddle, who also is publisher of The News Journal in Wilmington, DE.
    • South will be headed by Group President Carol O. Hudler. She is president and publisher of The News-Press in Fort Myers, FL and was a group president of the Sun Coast Group.
    • Interstate will continue to be headed by Senior Group President Barbara A. Henry until Aug. 1, when she retires. A successor will be named shortly.
    • West will be headed by Laura L. Hollingsworth, president and publisher of The Des Moines (IA) Register. She will become a group president. Headquarters of the former Pacific Group moves from Phoenix, AZ, to Des Moines.
    • The Arizona Republic, The Honolulu Advertiser and the Tucson Citizen will report directly to Robert J. Dickey, president of U.S. Community Publishing.
    • Denise H. Ivey, currently a group president of the Mid-South Group and president and publisher of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, will retire on Jan. 1. Until then, she becomes chairman of the Louisville operation. A successor to her as president and publisher will be named shortly.

    “This reorganization both refines our structure and puts our top people in key jobs with expanded responsibilities around the country,” said Dickey. “This will allow us to realign our strategic objectives and focus on top line growth as we go forward.

    “In particular, I would like to welcome Laura Hollingsworth to the rank of group president. In a relatively brief time at the helm of the Des Moines paper, she has demonstrated great skill, leadership and savvy. She’s a fine example of the great up and coming management talent we have at Gannett.”

    “However, we will be saying good-bye to two outstanding executives who have been instrumental in the accomplishments of our division for several years. Barbara Henry and Denise Ivey will be sorely missed, but we wish them well as they move into the next phase of their lives,” Dickey said. “We deeply appreciate all they have done for Gannett.”

    Dickey also announced two executive appointments on the corporate staff of U.S. Community Publishing and a publisher/president appointment in the field.

    • Evan Ray becomes senior vice president/finance and operations of U.S. Community Publishing. He was chief financial officer of Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. and group controller of the former Pacific Group.

    • Michelle Krans becomes senior vice president/Strategy and Development for U.S. Community Publishing. Krans was president and publisher of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, CA, and group vice president of the former Pacific Group.

    • Richard A. Ramhoff becomes president and publisher of The Desert Sun and a group vice president of the new West Group. He was president and publisher of the Lansing (MI) State Journal and a group vice president of the Sun Coast Group.

    “Michelle and Evan fill new positions on the corporate staff that will enable Community Publishing to move forward quickly on our key strategic initiatives in the coming months. I am very pleased to have them on my corporate team,” Dickey said. “Rich is an innovative leader and will be a great asset for Laura as she enters her new role within the West Group.”


    W. Curtis Riddle

    Curtis Riddle, 57, has been the senior group president of the East Newspaper Group and president and publisher of The News Journal of Wilmington, DE, since 1994. He joined Gannett in 1972 as a reporter and editorial writer for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY. He was a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Sun from 1976 before joining USA TODAY in 1982 as deputy managing editor. He then served as managing editor and special assistant to the publisher at The Cincinnati Enquirer before becoming publisher of the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN, in 1988. Riddle was named a regional vice president in 1989, and became regional president in 1991 when he was named publisher of the Lansing (MI) State Journal. He graduated from Southern Illinois University with a B.A. in English.

    Michelle M. Krans

    Michelle Krans, 46, was named president and publisher of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, CA in 2005 and became a group vice president in the Pacific Group the following year. Krans began her career with Gannett in 1990 as marketing and promotions manager at The Desert Sun. In 1995, she became market development director at The Salinas Californian. She returned to Palm Springs in 1998 as custom publishing manager and later was promoted to market development director. In 2002, she became advertising and marketing director. Krans has a B.S. in business from California State University, Northridge.

    Carol O. Hudler

    Carol Hudler, 52, who became president and publisher of The News-Press in Fort Myers, FL, in 2000, has been president of the Sun Coast Group since its inception in January 2006. She began her journalism career in 1977 as the assistant to the advertising manager of Vance Publications in Kansas City, KS in 1977. She held advertising and sales jobs at a number of publications in Kansas, Missouri and California before joining Gannett in 1988 as director of advertising at the Fort Myers newspaper. She also served as director and vice president of advertising at Gannett’s Rochester, NY, newspaper and was named president and publisher of The Macon (GA) Telegraph in 1995. She received her B.S. in journalism at the University of Kansas.

    Denise H. Ivey

    Denise Ivey, 58, has served as group president of Mid-South Group and president and publisher of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, since January 2006. Before that, Ivey was president and publisher of the Pensacola (FL) News Journal in and a group president from 1994. Ivey began her career at The Times in Gainesville, GA, in 1983 as the assistant controller, was named controller and became publisher in 1986. She became president and publisher of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, WV, and a group vice president in 1990. She received a B.S. in accounting from Louisiana State University/Alexandria.

    Laura L. Hollingsworth

    Laura Hollingsworth, 41, has been president and publisher of The Des Moines (IA) Register since 2007. She also has been a general manager and a vice president of advertising at the newspaper. Hollingsworth began her Gannett career as an account executive at the Olympia, WA, newspaper in 1989, where she also served as a supervisor of sales, assistant manager of retail advertising and manager of retail advertising. She became manager of retail advertising at the Rockford (IL) Register Star, then director of advertising at the Lansing (MI) State Journal in 1999. She received a B.A. in communication from the University of Wisconsin/Green Bay.

    Barbara A. Henry

    Barbara A. Henry, 55, has been president and publisher of The Indianapolis Star since 2000 and a group president since 2002. She has been a senior group president of the Interstate Newspaper Group since its inception in 2005. Henry began her Gannett career as a reporter at the Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal in 1974, where she also served as a wire editor, city editor, managing editor and executive editor. She also served as one of the founding assistant national editors of USA TODAY in 1982. She was editor of the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle from 1986 to 1991, when she became president and publisher of the Great Falls (MT) Tribune. She was named a regional vice president in 1994 and became president and publisher of The Des Moines (IA) Register in 1996. She received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada.

    Richard A. Ramhoff

    Richard A. Ramhoff, 40, has been president and publisher of the Lansing (MI) State Journal and group vice president of Gannett’s Midwest Group since May 2007. Before that, he was president and publisher of the Livingston County (MI) Daily Press & Argus since 2005. He graduated from Kent State University with a B.A. in journalism.

    Evan A. Ray

    Evan A. Ray, 54, has been the chief financial officer of Phoenix Newspapers Inc. from 2000 and a group controller since 1991. He had been director of finance for the Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal from 1991; was vice president of finance for The Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock from 1984; and was controller for the Tallahassee (FL) Democrat from 1979. Ray graduated from Florida University with a B.S. in accounting.


    Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information company that publishes 85 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns nearly 900 non-daily publications in the USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary Newsquest is the United Kingdom’s second largest regional newspaper company. Newsquest publishes nearly 300 titles, including 17 daily newspapers, and a network of prize-winning Web sites. Gannett also operates 23 television stations in the United States and is an Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers including, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.

    Media inquiries:
    Tara Connell
    Vice President of Corporate Communications

  15. Two down and more to go. Get rid of Silverman, Buchanan, Hunke, and the cancer starts into remission.
    Possibly a new start on rebuilding.

    Neuharth was the beast that started the slide. The moral slide.

  16. Anyone know who at Corporate will report to Krans? Has that been announced? I am surprised at this appointment given her comparitively small amount of experience. Rumor is some top level positions will report to her.

  17. Shouldn't the heading be, "It takes a villain?"

  18. You produce dreck with carpet-baggers -- and expect the locals to just buy it?

    What a friggin' laugh. Gannett got what it deserved. It's doomed.

  19. Silverman. Next. Please.

  20. Just a thought..........Should Bruce Klink be nervous with Evan Ray coming to corporate as senior vp of finance?

  21. The biggest mistake Gannett made was - and continues to be - its greed. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the internet was just a glimmer but the company choose to delay investing in web sites for newspapers or any digital product unless it had an ROI behind it. The internet - like so many other endeavors - is an investment that took years - made a decade - for some of the real revenue opportunities to present themselves. But by delaying, we got left behind and now we cannot catch up. We have always been a company most focused on the bottom line, but while we live phat for a long time that way. Like Rome, it may now be the cause of our demise.


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