In a surprise announcement, The New York Times CEO Janet Robinson announced last night that she was retiring from the company at the end of the year and that chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. would take over as interim CEO .
Robinson, who became the CEO at the end of 2004, leaves behind a mixed record at the paper. During her tenure the Times cut hundreds of jobs as print advertising and circulation dropped, sold their crown jewel headquarters building and then leased it back, and borrowed $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at 14% interest. The loan was repaid this year, but the company’s cash flow troubles still continue.
The one potential bright spot for the paper is their digital paywall, which has recorded solid numbers to date. But it can’t even begin to offset the revenues lost through print advertising, which shows few signs of recovering anytime soon.
That is reflected in the Times’ revenues, which have dropped by $1 billion per year since she took over as CEO in 2004, and profits that were previously robust have evaporated to the point that the company had to sell assets and eliminate the stock dividend just to stay afloat.
Robinson leaves with the Times’ stock price having dropped 80% in the last seven years, wiping out over $12 billion in market capitalization in the process.
But don’t cry for Robinson. According to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Robinson will be paid $4.5 million for a one-year consulting contract.
Media bias still pays well for those at the top of the food chain.
Here are the memos from Sulzberger and Robinson.
On The Record…..from Arthur
It was 1996 when our head of advertising at The New York Times came to me and said that the paper (which is all we were in those long-ago days) could dramatically increase its profitability and stature if it truly became a national newspaper. While one could find copies of The Times in major cities back then, it was basically the first edition with the feel of a metro paper and no significant amount of national advertising.
With Janet’s vision and input, we were able to convince the then corporate management to make the investment necessary and began to reposition The Times as a truly national newspaper – one that now has 58% of weekday and 62% of Sunday subscribers located outside of the NY market.
I note this critical part of our history because Janet has informed us that she has decided to retire at the end of the year after more than 28 successful years with us. Under her leadership at the paper, and later our entire Company, we have successfully transitioned to a multiplatform organization, and we have found new ways to reach new audiences, monetize content and stabilize our balance sheet during an uneven economy. We did this without compromising the quality of the news and information we provide our readers.
The decision to create a national edition changed the fortunes for the Company. It took huge courage and vision on Janet’s part to create and to successfully implement our national edition. We will always be in her debt for her leadership and her commitment to the long-term success of our Company.
We will begin a search—both internally and externally—for our next CEO. In the meantime, I will serve as CEO.
A message to all of you from Janet is attached. Her contributions to The New York Times Company have been significant and we want to thank her for 28 years of dedicated commitment and service. Please join me in wishing Janet a very healthy and happy future.
It is with mixed emotions that I write to let you know that I am retiring from The New York Times Company at the end of the month. The Company has been my home for 28 years and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many outstanding professionals over the years. At the same time, the Company’s course is set and I am excited by new opportunities that await me.
Obviously, the last few years have been tough as, together, we have navigated one of the most difficult periods in publishing history. It is probably an understatement to say that transitioning from a traditional print journalism model to the digital world has been an enormous challenge. Fortunately, thanks to a tremendous amount of hard work by many people, The New York Times Company is succeeding. Our balance sheet is strong, and we have a solid business plan and successful digital strategy in place that should serve the Company well for many years into the future. I know that I am leaving the Company in the best position possible.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Sulzberger family and the Board of Directors for the opportunities they have afforded me. I also would especially like to thank all of my colleagues for their unstinting support and hard work over the years. I will be forever appreciative.
Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy holiday season.