Archive for the ‘Executive Suite’ Category

Another shoe drops: Marymont takes Currie’s job

December 10, 2008

Gannett has finally gotten around to making the announcement, just moments ago, that you read about long ago, here.

Advertisements

New to Gannett Blog? Returning after an absence?

December 9, 2008

You’ve got a lot to catch up on, now that Craig Dubow has written another chapter in his (so far) unsinkable career as Gannett CEO!

By the numbers: How they retire top executives

December 5, 2008

1,295

— number of words retiring News Department chief Phil Currie spent in yesterday’s News Watch honoring four Corporate executives leaving the company. (Rank certainly carries privilege: Two of these guys didn’t even work in Currie’s department.)

22

— number of words Currie spent honoring the other 2,000 or so newspaper workers losing jobs in Gannett’s mass layoff. (“Indeed, this week many other good people are departing, too, and their individual losses also are deeply felt wherever they have worked.”)

Consolation prize!
Those other good people forcibly laid off in the worst economy since the Depression can always take CEO Craig Dubow‘s advice for students seeking journalism jobs:

You may not count as much at Corporate, but you definitely count here! We’re tallying job cuts, paper-by-paper. Please post your figures on our list, or in the comments section, below. You may also e-mail confidentially via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

As Corporate meets, a run-up to UBS conference?

December 3, 2008

CEO Craig Dubow & Co. could use today’s newspaper Corporate staff meeting as a practice session for next week’s big media stock conference in New York. Dubow will likely offer details to the UBS conference about severance costs for the big layoff underway.

But don’t be surprised if he squeezes in a plug for One Gannett, or whatever GCI is calling the digital news and information network now being salvaged from the newspapers and TV stations. There are at least two big parts to the concept to pitch — one old (selling ads across all the websites); and one new (better organizing all the editorial content online).

Reader: Corporate reorg, cuts to be disclosed Wed.

December 2, 2008

Newspaper division President Bob Dickey (left) is finally going to announce details of a rumored reshuffling at the Corporate level that will include layoffs, I’m told. Gannett Tower and other employees got an e-mail saying: “Please join Bob for a staff meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m. in the First Amendment Dining Room.”

As layoffs near, charity that doesn’t begin at home: Foundation pours more cash into execs’ pet causes

November 30, 2008

Gannett is about to launch one of the industry’s single-biggest newspaper layoffs, so I figured it was time to update my reporting on Gannett Foundation gifts to charities favored by company executives. (Who knows? Maybe we can save some jobs if someone in charge realizes there are other ways to economize.) The following is based on the foundation’s just-filed 2007 tax return, which I received Friday under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

As CEO Craig Dubow (left) imposed draconian budget cuts last year, the company’s charitable arm — the Gannett Foundation — made an unusual gift: $20,000 for scholarships at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. It was one of the foundation’s single-biggest direct grants of 2007, and followed an identical $20,000 gift the year before, public documents show.

The gifts were unusual for several reasons. The Gannett foundation’s website says it won’t give money to endowment funds; the two grants were for an “endowed scholarship,” the foundation’s tax returns shows. Also, the foundation’s stated mission is to help non-profit groups where Gannett owns a newspaper or TV station. The closest GCI business is 53 miles away: the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C.

But Western Carolina had a powerful ally: Dubow himself. He is the foundation’s chairman and president, and one of its seven unpaid officers, all Gannett employees. As Gannett’s CEO, Dubow is among a handful of current and former executives allowed to steer foundation money to favorite charities — often, charities including religious groups that would be ineligible under rules applying to regular employees and the public.

Sure enough, Dubow recommended both $20,000 gifts, the foundation’s new tax return shows. Last year’s grant was among $320,000 awarded to charities recommended by Dubow and 15 current and former executives — including some of the highest-paid brass, an analysis of the tax return shows. The 2007 grants were on top of $724,000 the foundation gave in 2004-2006 to charities favored by executives.

Unseemly ‘philanthropy’
There is nothing illegal about any of this. The grants were made under a little-known perquisite that Gannett says is meant to attract and retain top executives. Under the benefit, the foundation imposes fewer restrictions on donation requests from top management compared to requests from average employees and the public. For example, these direct grants didn’t require any matching money from the executives — unlike a similar program for regular employees, GannettMatch.

Based on last year’s giving, each executive got $20,000 in what amounts to play philanthropy money. All of it appears to have gone to non-profit groups. I suspect many other big companies offer a similar benefit to top executives. Plus, the $320,000 last year was just a fraction of the overall $11.3 million in grants approved.

Yet, with a mass layoff coming this week at papers including Florida’s News-Press in Fort Myers, spending on executives’ pet charities is at sharp odds with Dubow’s claims of fiscal discipline and shared sacrifice.

Besides, there’s something unseemly about sending foundation money to charities far from Gannett communities — at the same time GCI is reducing employment and news coverage in those same places. Why didn’t these 16 executives give their $320,000 in earmarked grants to the company’s Employee Disaster Relief Fund?

It’s not even clear whether Gannett is getting credit for all its gifts. Consider the $40,000 to Western Carolina University. The tax return says the money went to an “endowed scholarship,” rather than to, say, a general-use scholarship fund. Scholarship funds typically offer naming rights.

I asked foundation Executive Director Tara Connell which fund received the money. I asked WCU, too. I look forward to their replies. (Connell is also Gannett’s spokeswoman. Read her objections to my last report.)

The Dubow scholarship fund?
Meanwhile, I searched WCU’s website, but turned up just one reference to the Gannett Foundation, a $3,270 grant to a theater group in early 2003. Then I found a page showing a “complete listing of WCU scholarships.” But Gannett and the Gannett Foundation do not appear anywhere on the page. There is, however, a scholarship listed under the names of Dubow and his wife:

“Craig and Denise Dubow have established an endowed fund to provide scholarship support for deserving students at Western Carolina University. This scholarship provides support for full time undergraduate students from Jackson, Macon, and Transylvania counties who demonstrate financial need and maintain a B average.”

More than likely, this amounts to an out-of-date list on a website or some other innocent omission. The Dubows probably established and funded the scholarships on their own, using their own money. In fact, the return’s GannettMatch section shows the foundation matched an unidentified employee’s $10,000 gift; that could have been from Dubow, ponying up for his own fund.

But until I hear back from Connell and WCU, I still don’t know how the Gannett Foundation received credit for its $40,000 in direct grants. There’s reason to be curious: Last spring, I found at least two examples where foundation money went to other scholarship funds named after executives — rather than Gannett or the foundation. (Updated at 10:41 a.m. ET, Dec. 1: A WCU spokesman has now referred my questions to the the school’s fund-raising office.)

More liberal rules
The direct grants to endowed scholarship funds at WCU and elsewhere are made possible because of the more liberal foundation rules for the executives. For anyone else seeking support for their scholarship fund, the foundation’s website says: “The only scholarship program currently funded by the foundation is the Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarship Program for children of Gannett employees.”

Gannett provides all the foundation’s funds. Periodically, it donates a newspaper to the foundation, which then sells it, and reinvests the proceeds in stocks and other investments. That’s what happened to the Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Ind., which Gannett sold last year via the foundation for $12.3 million. It had been a Gannett paper for 36 years.

More executive-directed gifts
Other noteworthy Gannett Foundation direct grants given last year on the recommendation of current or former executives. Each person directed a total $20,000 to charities of their own choosing.

Earlier: How to examine a non-profit’s tax returns

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s News-Press, Newseum. The paper is expected to lay off up to 80 of 600 employees in the next week]

In USAT layoffs, is Corporate sending a message?

November 26, 2008

Many USA Today employees have dreaded the day when Corporate starts bringing the undisciplined paper to heel, forcing it to budget more like the dozens of smaller, down-market dailies in the field.

Perhaps that day is here, given the strange way Corporate is reportedly forcing USAT to trim its workforce amid the big company-wide newspaper layoff next week. Top editor Ken Paulson told a newsroom staff meeting that Corporate has insisted he lay off 20 employees from the 450-person newsroom.

In what sounds like a heartless decision, Corporate would not consider other avenues to reach targeted savings; 20 employees would be forced to walk the plank before their colleagues. And those are just the newsroom’s layoffs, at a paper with perhaps 1,500 employees. Still to be heard from: circulation, production, ad services and other departments.

Now, a cynic might conclude the Gannett Tower is putting the fear of Corporate into a paper that historically behaved like it’s not part of the bigger Gannett company. Compared to the smaller papers out in the field, USA Today staffers have it easy: Full-service on-site cafeteria and gym. Modern, well-lit offices with proper work spaces. Fairly up-to-date laptops and other technologies. Acres of convenient (and covered!) parking.

Plus, it’s not unusual for USA Today reporters and editors to pull down annual pay of $100,000 and up — more than double and triple what smaller papers pay. (On the pay question, factor in the cost of living in northern Virginia and places like San Francisco, where I worked. A small, three-bedroom house around the corner from where we live just hit the market for nearly $1 million. It needs a lot of work, but I bet the sellers get it.)

‘Uppity USAT folks’
Some Gannett Blog readers left Monday’s staff meeting, suspicious about Corporate’s motives. The executives who made this call “are about as cold as they come,” Anonymous@9:40 a.m. said in a comment.

Sounding unconvinced, Anonymous@11:26 a.m. asked skeptically: “Do you think it’s a Corporate beatdown to teach uppity USAT folks who’s boss?”

Yes, indeed, said Anonymous@3:59 p.m.: “There is someone at the top, maybe in Corporate, who sees us as numbers rather than people.”

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

Corporate adds new-product designer/developer

November 26, 2008

(Updated.) Gannett has quietly hired Yuri Victor of The Times of Northwest Indiana for a Corporate position of product design and development manager.

In a new comment, below, Victor graciously corrects some misconceptions I may have created about his new job, in an earlier version of this post. “I will not be redesigning any papers,” he says. “I will be creating new products or improving existing products. . . . I, too, am upset about the layoffs in journalism and will always do what I can to help. Many of the new products I work on do increase profit and create jobs and the improvements to products can save the company money.”

Victor gets high marks from Charles Apple of the widely read Visual Editors Blog, who writes today: “Yuri is one of the brightest, most impressive young people I’ve ever met. If he’s working on it, then perhaps there’s hope.”

Apple quotes Victor saying: “I got a call out of the blue from Gannett Corporate. They offered me product design and development manager. I accepted and started a week and a half ago. It feels [odd] to make a move in this climate, but I’m already working on projects to increase profit, create jobs and reduce costs through smarter, more efficient process systems. Not cuts.”

Victor was most recently innovation strategist and product development manager at the Times, a Lee Enterprises newspaper in Munster, Ind., according to his LinkedIn profile.

[Image: today’s Times, Newseum; bigger, more readable view]

Jetcapade: Why GCI set a Dec. 3 layoff deadline

November 24, 2008

[Hyatt Grand hotel, seen in background, is likely venue for Gannett’s big layoff announcement in two weeks. But will Corporate risk bad publicity by flying there aboard the company jet?]

Gannett is almost certain to send a delegation to a high-profile Wall Street media stock analysts meeting, scheduled to start two weeks from today at the glittering Grand Hyatt hotel in New York. CEO Craig Dubow (left) and other top executives will tell influential analysts there how much Gannett expects to save as a result of the mass layoff now underway across the company. The more savings Dubow can report, the more likely analysts will boost GCI’s stock price.

Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore alluded to this meeting during the third-quarter earnings conference call. But I didn’t find details until today, when the sponsor — Swiss investment bank UBS — published a schedule for the event. (Gannett participated in last year’s conference, which I live-blogged.)

The three-day Annual Global Media Conference is scheduled to start Dec. 8 — five days after the Dec. 3 deadline by which Gannett hopes to have finished laying off up to 3,000 newspaper division employees.

By private jet — or commercial coach?
Surely Corporate noticed what happened after the Big Three automakers flew their CEOs to Washington aboard private jets, seeking taxpayer bailouts last week. Didn’t work out so well, did it? The same devastatingly bad press coverage awaits Corporate and other media kingpins traveling to New York by jet and limousine for the UBS event.

Indeed, I was told Dubow & Co. plan to visit The Indianapolis Star on Dec. 4 — theoretically, the day after most of the layoffs there and elsewhere have been executed. (Have the painters started touching up the Star‘s lobby yet?)

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo: Gannett’s 1998 Dassault Falcon 2000, in a photo taken April 8, 2006. Since then, however, Corporate may have dumped it from the fleet, which is now down to a single jet]

As Currie retires, debate grows over his legacy

November 22, 2008

In one of the least surprising developments in Corporate’s hush-hush executive reshuffling, top newspaper division content boss Phil Currie (left) has told colleagues in an e-mail that he’s leaving the company after more than four decades’ work.

Mark Silverman once accused me of burying the lead in an e-mail I sent to editors, so I won’t do it here,” Currie says. “I want you to know that on Dec. 31 of this year, I will be retiring. Given some vacation time I will be using over the holidays to be with my family, I expect my last official day in the office will be Dec. 19. I approached Bob Dickey about this in October, and he left it to me to choose the time of the announcement. I choose now.”

One of GCI’s most influential editors
A 44-year Gannett lifer, Currie did more than almost any other executive to shape the content of the company’s newspapers over the past two decades. He was not universally popular. Yet, Currie remained optimistic about the industry’s future, as this short February interview shows:

Currie has strong supporters — including Cincinnati Enquirer top editor Tom Callinan, who says in a comment today: “Before this thread dips below the home page and is lost to posterity: It is unfortunate that this good man who has done so much for so many and cared so deeply over the years is getting raked by anons who really do not know Phil. Say what you will about News 2000 and RLRN or whatever other Corporate program, Phil put readers first as well as the families of those of us who moved often. His legacy is rich with recruiting some very good journalists, advancing diversity and standing up for us when the bean-counters intruded into newsrooms.”

Currie’s legacy; what’s next?
When I worked for the community newspapers, publishers did not dare hire an executive editor — sometimes even a managing editor — without Currie’s blessing. He was a driving force behind Gannett’s more hare-brained quality control programs — from the original “News 2000,” to “Real Life, Real News.” Yet, his crowning achievement may be the now-failing Information Center business model, foisted on newspapers two years ago.

Kate Marymont will likely take on Currie’s responsibilities, a shift expected since the former News-Press editor in Fort Myers, Fla., got promoted to Corporate earlier this year.

(Confidential to Currie: That you would reference Tennessean top editor Silverman in one of your final e-mails only confirms you haven’t paid attention to what’s been happening in the field.)

Earlier: More video favorites on my YouTube channel

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.