Monday, July 25, 2011

USAT | Just when you thought there were too many VPs, Hunke hires one to 'accelerate the execution of transformative business initiatives'

No. 15: Singer
Gannett's increasingly management-larded daily has hired yet another vice president, into yet another newly created position: vice president of business innovation. Scott Singer will report to Vice President of Business Development Rudd Davis, hired last year in the first round of newly created vice presidencies, under a reorganization that's moving forward at the speed of cold molasses.

Singer, USA Today said in a statement this morning, "will be principally focused on developing and implementing new, growth-oriented business models." He will work from the paper's New York office.

Brace yourselves, boys and girls, because here come the buzzwords offered by Publisher Dave Hunke in announcing Singer's hiring:

"We're thrilled to add Scott's multi-faceted skills and extensive media experience to the USA Today business development team. His innovative thinking will help us identify areas for growth, allow us to accelerate the execution of transformative business initiatives, and take advantage of the compelling opportunities that media companies have to leverage their content in this exciting era of new digital distribution technologies."

Oh, my.

Singer was managing director and head of media and entertainment at The Bank Street Group, a firm focused on mergers and acquisitions, and private debt and equity capital raising, the statement says.

For those of you keeping track, Singer joins Davis in being at least the 15th senior executive Hunke has hired or promoted in the last year:
  • Sandra Cordova Micek, senior vice president of marketing
  • Christine Allegro, general manager of the Your Life vertical
  • Susie Ellwood, newly created position of executive vice president and general manager
  • Tom Beusse, to the newly created position of president of USA Today Sports Media Group
  • Jeffrey Wilks, to the newly created position of SVP of brand marketing; he lasted just seven months
  • Denise Brodey, newly created post of general manager of Your Life vertical; she lasted just six months
  • Jeff Dionise, newly created VP of product development and design
  • Heather Frank, newly created VP of vertical development
  • Steve Kurtz, newly created VP of digital development
  • Ross Schaufelberger, newly created VP and general manager of the new USA Today Sports
  • Brad Jones, SVP of circulation
  • Myron Maslowsky, SVP, group finance and administration
  • Susan Motiff, VP for strategic planning, analysis and support
Now, other than Jones' work in arresting the paper's circulation decline, can anyone list the accomplishments of the other 14?


  1. Confidential to COO Gracia Martore:

    Really? I mean, REALLY?

  2. They're going to lay off another 15 people to make this guy's salary. And add to CD and GM boni.

  3. Yet another case where Susan Motiff says "What? Who? Isn't that supposed to be what I'm in charge of?"

  4. No this is something different. He's an experienced Wall Street M&A dealmaker who represents companies that want to buy or sell themselves, obtain debt or raise equity stakes, or make corporate acquisitions. It most likely means that Gannett is planning for USAToday to go out and buy assets to help it grow in electronic markets. Or it wants to look for partners in some of their existing businesses. Or both.

    It's curious that a guy like this would want to work at Gannett. Big companies use dealmakers like this, but I don't think that they typically hire them. I think they usually use them on an outsourced basis. So someone made a good pitch to the guy and he thinks he can grow a good business, one that's better than the eat-what-you-kill life in his deal-finding world. Or he's just had a rough go of it and he wants the comfort of a corporate, salaried job.

  5. I think "accelerate the execution" says it all.

  6. @11:50,

    It's even more curious that he'd agree to report to Davis, who, by all accounts, is being held up only by the talents of Davidson and Barrett.

  7. I think 11:50 makes a great point. Isn't this what investment banks and M&A specialists are for? Aren't like 800 sitting in NY just waiting for clients like USAT? Why do we need this guy on staff? Has Gannett senior execs just become a bunch of bobbleheads when it comes to these decisions?

  8. Since corporate likes to join the conversation from time-to-time, let's get them to answer Jim's core question: what have these 14 people actually accomplished since they were hired?

    We're waiting......

  9. And waiting.....

  10. You have to wonder who signs off on these hires above Hunke's pay grade. Who came up with this job title? What, exactly is this alleged rainmaker going to do? Mentor the veep kiddie corps? Straighten the vertical mess out? I cant exactly the need here.Of course, I cant fathom what most of the others do to earn their pay. Can anyone be a veep in this organization? If so, sign me up.

  11. "USAT VP" = "Director" to the rest of the world. Title inflation is an illusion used to create a sense of advancement in a stagnant or declining business.

  12. What's next? A vice president who will oversee other vice presidents? A vice president to analyze what the other vice presidents do? WTF, Hunke. Enough already. You are doing NOTHING to improve the quality of the product.

  13. They tell properties like Florida Today to cut some huge unknown amount of payroll and force the editors and reporters to reapply for a shrinking number of jobs just so they can hire more suits? Who do they think is going to do all the work?

  14. I would say we need a vice president of bullshitting executives, but no one is as good as that as Mr.
    Hunke. Thank you for inspiring us, Dave.

  15. The rising number of useless executives is truely mind boggling. Even the most naive intern is lefting going HUH?????

  16. Why do many assume that Singer's going to buy things? Gannett doesn't have the money to make large purchases, it can't borrow much and its stock is relatively cheap. Maybe Singer's going to put together a plan to sell off newspapers or split the newspapers from the TV stations ala Belo. Gannett's doing all it can to raise its stock price, including a dividend hike, but nothing makes Wall Street happier than a sale of flagging properties.

  17. The ratio of Gannett VPs to worker bees seems to be similar to the ratio of USCP editors who sit in their office playing facebook games to worker bees.

  18. My farm needs bees, friend me and I'll send you some tractor parts.

    What the hell, I'll throw in a couple of copy editors.

  19. 4:09 If that were the case, he would have been assigned to Corporate, where he'd have company-wide responsibilities.

  20. Hunke will not be satisfied until there are more vice presidents and editors than reporters. We must be very close after today. Cant wait for Transformation, Part 2.

  21. This guy is only going to accelerate our cost structure.

  22. Given this guy's experience and work history, I would think he's getting paid somewhere around $300,000, depending on any bonuses. That would mean Rudd Davis is getting paid even more.

    And Ellwood's probably in line for $1 million, with any bonus plus stock awards and options.


  23. Craig Sevier7/25/2011 5:12 PM

    But this is typical Gannett. Top-heavy with pretty preening peacocks -- and replete with that species' tiny brains evidently. I can't stress enough to the newer people that while Gannett has always been clunky, it was still passable because it still could claim talented people at, well, not all but at nearly every level.

    Now, it's never been as bad as it has been in the past five years. Not even close.

    All those execs cost obscenely lots and lots of money. And Gannett apparently has it to pour down the drain of its layoffs, its promotions of rah-rah autocrats, and its inevitable failure.

  24. Clearly, this hiring calls for a new category of self serving Gannett awards. The Vice President's Ring.

  25. With this crew? How about the Junior non Achievement Award?

  26. What we have here is a have more Senior Vice Presidents. Come on, Dave. Surely, your current roster is due some promotions based on all of their noticeable improvements to the bottom line.

  27. What is interesting here is how few (in fact none), of these new VPs come from the USA TODAY leadership.

    Yes, Dionese, Kurt, Jones and the beancounters do, but they are mainly continuing basic services.

    But these new folks are from digital companies, NBC, AOL, etc. Etc.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and it could signal an exciting new direction. But it also signals more evidence that "leadership" thinks existing staff "doesn't get it."

    The problem is that none if these people understand the USA TODAY product nor its brand equity, which remains quite valuable when flexed correctly.

    And just naming people doesn't build a team. Hunke provides no oversight at all nor leadership at these VP levels (forget the complaint that he ignores the Newsroom, he also ignores his top execs).

    The result is incredible infighting among these VPs, conflicting directions, anba done projects when someone else has a different idea and endless corporate spinning.

    Rudd fought with Wilks, Heather hates Rudd, no one buys into the verticals and the entire suite of VPs don't know why we can't sell advertising. Now this new guy in a suit is going to focus on acquisitions?

    Total dysfunction. A successful company needs to work together. We can never replicate the shared goals of USA TODAY of the past, where despite bad feelings circulation, marketing and advertising finished each other's sentences.

    But this new more-the merrier who-are-you-again approach of feuding VPs who failed elsewhere is a Pres ription for even worse disaster than we have now.

    Surely there are smart people within the organization who can act faster and better than newcomers for the sake of newcomers

    Nit one VP has delivered anything yet. So we hire more???


  28. Was he hired to make Rudd nervous, or rather, more nervous?

  29. None of USA TODAY's attempts at innovation have worked because you can't innovate without making an investment and Gannett will not invest, at least not in its own products. They want new products and businesses to be profitable from day 1 and that's just not realistic. The few attempts they have made to invest wound up to be losers. I bet Singer beats Wilks to the door.

  30. What 7:17 says is very true:
    There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and it could signal an exciting new direction. But it also signals more evidence that "leadership" thinks existing staff "doesn't get it."

    The problem is that new leadership alienated plenty of staff that did "get it." These people were forbidden from pursuing projects and in some cases continuing good work by these new leaders. Months went on. Presentations and reports went unread, and the people who did "get it" - left and went elsewhere to actually get work done.

  31. Gannett is now nothing more than a huge "shell game". New innovative people, new innovative ideas... Pick any year in the last several and that's been the same annual theme. With no change at the top and no results from the efforts. Smaller daily papers to become cookie cutter products. USA TODAY lost in its own shadow and corporate announcing no new layoffs within days of new layoffs.

    Yes, this is a "Shell Game" just watch how Gannett cuts expenses to offset their inability to create revenue next.

  32. Why don't Martore, Hunke or even the increasingly irrelevant Dubow actually say what the heck they are doing with the company, and where they envision it to be in five years?

  33. All of these USAT VP are losers! Seriously. Jeff D has done nothing more than color his hair and hike his pants up above his belly button.

    Rudd is a pot smoking dirt bag.

    Russ Shuffleberger is a weasel and has been begging for a job sinc he sold his crappy company, BNQT, to Craig Moon.

    Myron is about one day from retirement or being fired. He has been passed over for any serious job within Gannett. He just doesn't get it according to Gracia Martore!

    Hunke, when sober, might as well make his admin, Angela, the VP of Hooters.

    Hunke...Have another scotch!

  34. I think I know what Gannett is doing. In 2 years, amidst continued losses, declines in revenue, layoffs, nearly nothing left of circulation, they'll announce they're the only media company with twice as many Vice Presidents as employees!

  35. the board just needs to wake up. wake up!

  36. Among this crew, heather frank is the worst. A complete ditz who thinks the AOL way can be grafted onto the Usa today brand. Id take pot puffing Rudd Davis over her any day of the week. And I'm no 411 fan, dudes.

  37. Gannett has become a shadow of itself and in the throes of dying. USAT has nothing in it anymore. The inmates are running the asylum and the share holders are feed up with the amatures running the company into the ground. It's only a matte of time now before the executives give themselves the crumbs that are left over. Good night Irene.

  38. Still waiting for one of the corporate mouth pieces to provide us with anything this group has accomplished. What's taking so long. Are they doing extensive research? Anything? Something?

    We continue to wait.....eagerly.

  39. And we continue to wait....tick tock tick tock.

  40. Chris Fruitrich7/28/2011 6:53 PM

    I always believed that working at USAT -- with all its political infighting and resident AFNARs -- was the top of the top. Opportunities to be very creative and in the main, working with good people. Having wound down the journalism career, it's horrifying to watch from the sidelines at what's happening. Fifteen VPs ... 15 VPs while the rank and file files out!


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